From fuel tax increase, MT local governments getting $6.2M in road money

Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-13 18:54:16-05

HELENA – Montana cities and counties are getting $6.2 million in additional road-maintenance money this year from higher state fuel taxes – and local officials say it’s a badly needed influx of infrastructure cash.

“We’ve got a lot of projects in the backlog, and you know how the conversation about infrastructure has been how much need there is,” Kelly Lynch, deputy director of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, told MTN News Tuesday. “Roads and streets are a big part of that, so we’re very excited about it.”

The state Department of Transportation last week announced the 2018 allocations for 133 Montana cities and towns and all 56 counties.

Cities and towns will receive about $3.85 million, while counties get $2.35 million, allocated based on population, road miles and other factors.

Billings will get the most of any city, at $655,700, and Flathead the most of any county, at nearly $180,000.

The amounts for other major cities are $405,000 for Missoula, $360,000 for Great Falls, $263,500 for Bozeman, $216,400 for Butte, $208,600 for Helena and $142,000 for Kalispell.

Next year, those amounts may be three times as much, for the 2018 allocations are based on only four months of tax revenue last year, after the fuel-tax increase took effect in July.

“Next year’s allocation in March 2019 will be an entire 12 months worth of (tax) collection,” Lynch said.

The 2017 Legislature voted to increase Montana’s state fuel tax by 4.5 cents per gallon last year and 1.5 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. A portion of the increase was designated for road maintenance and construction in cities and counties – on top of the $17 million they already get from fuel-tax revenue.

Lynch and other local officials noted that the state fuel tax hadn’t been increased since 1993, and that local governments need the help to repair roads.

“There just isn’t enough money in the world to bring all county roads up to standards,” said Harold Blattie of the Montana Association of Counties.

Cities and counties can submit requests for the money from March 1 through Nov. 1. They must identify the projects that will be funded and provide a 5 percent match.

“Some counties have identified projects and are ready to go,” Blattie told MTN News.

“Their lists are very long and they’ve been waiting to get to maintenance, repair and construction of roads,” Lynch added, referring to the cities and towns. “They’re just going to start working on those faster than they’ve been able to do before.”