With residents buying fewer cars, cutting back on driving and buying less gas, Mesa's streets budget, partly funded by what's popularly termed the "gasoline tax," is projected to take a drastic hit over the next seven years.
Mesa's transportation Director Dan Cleavenger laid out the rather dismal scenario to the City Council Thursday, as part of a budget presentation. The city expects to take an estimated $82.1 million hit until 2014-15.
"That's a big deal," said Cleavenger, adding that people are driving less, or carpooling.
Arizona collects what's known as the Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF), which is then distributed to municipalities. The money for this fund is collected from gasoline taxes, vehicle license taxes and motor vehicle registration fees, among others.
The gas tax portion of the HURF revenue is based on gallons bought, regardless of the price of gas. So the lower the amount bought, the less the revenue.
Cleavenger also told the council that the department's other revenue source, a dedicated portion of sales tax revenue, could fall short by an estimated $6.3 million until 2014-15.
If revenue goes down, it would ultimately hurt the city's ability to maintain its streets as well as it would like to, Cleavenger said.
The department's proposed streets program budget for 2009-10 is $57.2 million. That money would be used, for instance, to maintain the city's streets, signs and street lights. An estimated $32 million of this money would come from HURF monies, and $25.2 million from sales tax revenue.
Meanwhile, one silver lining for Mesa comes from competitive bidding and current lower prices of construction materials.
That's why Mesa is moving ahead with its capital projects, which would over time be paid for by the 2008 voter-approved bond revenue. One of these capital projects is the ring road near ASU Polytechnic. That project is in the design phase.