Why not pay for roads from the general fund?

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WALLA WALLA - Earlier this year, when city officials held town hall-style meetings to address the lack of funding for street maintenance, one option was presented to the public that did not make it to the recent survey.

"Cut $1M from existing General Fund activities" was how the presentation heading read.

It seems that option to fund roads has become a dead end.

When it came time to survey residents this spring, using more money from the general fund was not included in the choices.

Then earlier this month - when officials reviewed the survey results and decided which option to pursue - general fund revenue was not included.

Should more general funds have been included?

For 2011, the city general fund budget totaled $23.4 million.

If the city had dedicated 5 percent of that budget for road maintenance, that would have created just over $1 million in funding this year.

The downside, city officials warned at the town hall-style meetings, is that using more general funds to fix roads would inevitably lead to further cuts in staff and services.

But using general funds would also eliminate any new taxes or fees.

Another benefit of using general funds is that this option would not require a public vote, and renewal would be based on City Council approval with each year's budget.

At one time, the general fund included regular road maintenance. But as federal and state funding sources have dwindled, and I-695 reduced state and city coffers by millions, the result was that there just wasn't enough money in the general fund to try to keep up with roads and everything else.

So roads got cut.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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