By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
A new law taking effect Aug. 1 will give counties more flexibility with road funding it receives from the state’s gas tax collection.
Before HB-514 was passed in the last legislative session, counties were only allowed to use funds from the 4-cent excise tax on gas and lubricating oil products to pave, restore and rehabilitate paved roads and bridges or to replace bridges. Now counties will be free to use that funding for vegetation management on rights of way, excluding the purchase of herbicides.
Cullman County has $1.5 million in those funds budgeted this year.
“We appreciate any time the legislature unearmarks funds,” said Commissioner Darrell Hicks. “It’s going to give us more latitude in our budget.”
Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker said there’s been some confusion about the new law, with some believing it’s a new tax.
“This just allows us to use that money we already have to maintain our rights-of-way along our roads,” Walker said. “I really don’t see it as being beneficial because we need every penny we can to get for our road maintenence because we have so many miles to take care of.”
Walker said that a tax increase on gas and oils would have been helpful by generating more revenue for county road maintenence.
“We’re in growing season so we’re running three bush hogs in each of our four districts 40 hours a week, and it’s still not enough to keep up,” Walker said.
Commissioner Stanley Yarbrough said with the county being responsible for so many road miles, it’s easy to get behind with mowing alone.
Walker and Hicks said what has helped is the county’s aggressive spraying campaign that it started this past spring to combat fast-growing Johnson grass. All three commissioners said they hope to continue spraying rights of ways in addition to mowing to stay on top of overgrown areas.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 135.