According to three of the Verde Valley’s city and town managers, allocation of fees from the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund are having a direct negative effect on transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance.
HURF fees are generated through motor fuel taxes and “fees and charges relating to the registration and operation of motor vehicles on the public highways of the state,” according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. “These collections include gasoline and use-fuel taxes, motor-carrier taxes, vehicle-license taxes, motor vehicle registration fees and other miscellaneous fees.”
Revenues from the fees are deposited in the HURF and distributed to cities, towns, counties and to the state highway fund and “represent a primary source of revenues available to the state for highway construction, improvements and other related expenses.”
Clarkdale Town Manager Gayle Mabery presented data that shows how “HURF sweeps” — a term that, according to Cottonwood Development Services Manager Morgan Scott, denotes the way the state legislature reallocates revenue traditionally given to cities, towns and counties for transportation needs — impact the ability of Verde Valley communities to fund projects.
“Several weeks ago, Vice Mayor Richard Dehnert asked me to project the total impact of the state’s HURF sweeps on Clarkdale’s budget,” Mabery said. “With this week’s approval of the fiscal year 2018 budget by the Arizona Legislature, I offer the following for your consideration:
- n The adopted budget again includes a sweep of HURF funds to offset part of the costs of operating the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The legislature increased the sweep from $96 million to $99 million for the fiscal year 2018 budget.
- n Total HURF distributions to Arizona cities and towns should have been $484,334,000 for fiscal year 2018.
- n The $99 million sweep reduced the city and town HURF distribution by 20.5 percent, to a total of $385,334,000.
- n Clarkdale’s share of the HURF distribution for fiscal year 2018 should have been $440,295, but the sweep to help fund AZDPS resulted in a distribution of $350,299 [a reduction of $89,996].
“For far too many years the state of Arizona has not been financially in a position to fully fund many things in the state, one of which is transportation,” Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin said. “Much of this is known, and much of the focus is on things like education, and rightfully so.
“However, mostly silent from this lack of funding is transportation, and as difficult a job as the legislators have in balancing all of the priorities throughout this state, transportation seems separated from that difficult job every year .... The result is about $200,000 [taken] annually from the Town of Camp Verde’s street budget. $200,000 times 10 is conservatively over $2 million of gas taxes that were not able to be used on the [town’s] roads.”
Martin admitted that DPS is an important department for legislators to fund, but that cites and towns need more funds to construct and maintain transportation infrastructure.
“Take a cue from our neighbor Utah, who over a year ago added five cents to a gallon of gas to address their needs,” Martin said. “Ironically, the last time Utah raised this tax was in 1993, when
Arizona last did .... Simply continuing state budget sweeps that virtually no citizen understands or hears about to address the states’ unwillingness to make changes in their funding mechanisms, because all taxes are unpopular, is costing us.
“It’s time to make a difference. Start by balancing your own budget with your own resources, then consider passing an increase in our gas tax.”