There are some strained dynamics going on between the County Board, and the Road Commission that I was not fully aware of.
The full 9 member county board votes tonight at 6:00 PM in chambers (open to the public) to take over the road commission or leave it independent as it currently is. My guess is that the road commission will soon be history.
There has apparently been some cross words between the two governing bodies where some of the road commission members openly challenged a few of the board members in regard to their professional credentials. This was brought up last night in the closing board member comments.
There is a letter from County Board Chairperson, LaMar Frederick, to Penrod and the Road Commission that is just scathing. http://www.co.monroe.mi.us/docs/Ltr__Chair_Frederick_to_Rd__Cm__Exeter_Rd__4_29_12.pdf
It kind of summarizes the performance of the Road Commission along with stating numerous county resident complaints regarding the Commission's treatment towards them.
There is also another interesting independent operational study posted on the County Board website that answered a few of the questions I was curious about in terms of how their financial measurables stacked up against others in the area. Another scathing report that makes the future of the Road Commission look highly doubtful. http://www.co.monroe.mi.us/docs/Phase_1Road_Comm_Analysis_2nd_REVISED_FINAL.pdf
The summary says it all:
Other Comments Regarding Financial Position
Included in assets of the Road Commission is inventory of approximately $1,352,000 at 12/31/10. Included in this amount is road materials (gravel, stone, salt) of approximately $1,125,000. This amount represents 7.3% of operating expenditures. By comparison, looking at two
other counties (one larger and one smaller), Washtenaw and Calhoun County Road Commissions have 3.4% and 5% of inventories in relation to total operating expenditures. The amount of inventory as an asset has an equal amount reserved, or considered nonspendable of
the Road Commission’s fund balance.
Summary of Road Commission’s Financial Position and Outlook for the Future
1. Administrative costs as a percentage of expenditures have increased over the past decade, and at 12/31/10 is at a level which is higher than average of the other road commission’s in this comparison analysis. Reasons for the higher relative costs of the Road Commission should be determined.
2. Spendable fund balance of the Road Commission has been decreasing over the past decade, which is similar to the trend of other road commissions in Michigan. However, at December 31, 2010, the Road Commission’s spendable fund balance percentage is less than half of the average of the other road commissions in this comparison.
3. Annual debt service as a percent of expenditures is nearly 1.5 times higher than the average of the other road commissions in this comparison. Debt service expenditures, of course, reduce the amount of revenues that can be used for primary and local road projects.
4. The OPEB liability for retiree health and life insurance is considerably higher than the average of the other road commissions in this comparison. The Road Commission must find ways to either advance fund this OPEB liability by contributions to the OPEB Trust fund, or by changing the requirements for this benefit which will reduce costs in the future. Increasing contributions to the OPEB Trust fund obviously will reduce the funds available to perform preservation and maintenance on primary and local road projects.
In summary, the financial condition of the Road Commission has deteriorated in the last two decades. Certain key ratios, including spendable fund balance to annual operating expenditures, fringe benefits to labor costs, staffing levels to annual revenue/expenditure activity, percentage of construction/structural improvement costs to total expenditures, and the OPEB obligation to spendable fund balance have all reflected adverse trends over this period of time. Facing the increased legacy requirements (primarily as a result of the OPEB obligation costs), and increased wages, fringes, fuels, and materials, coupled with stagnant MTF distributions, the ability of the Road
Commission to preserve and maintain its primary and local road system will be challenged more than ever in future years. Additional State funding would mitigate this situation, but the possibility of increased MTF funding is unknown at this time.