Voters in the Nov. 4 general election will give the final approval to the 2014 Pay-as-You-Go Program, which is set to launch nearly $55 million in county-funded road and bridge projects after being approved by the Mobile County Commission this week.
The only such program in the county, the PAYG program features a method of financing road improvements that allows the county to pay for road and bridge improvements with no new taxes and no borrowed money by selling and quickly buying back bonds on the same day.
Almost 90 years ago, the state legislature appropriated 6.5 mills of ad valorem or property taxes to be used by counties through a special Highway Tax Fund.
According to Assistant County Engineer Bryan Kegley, those funds are used to purchase and buy back bonds in a single day, which allows the county to move those monies into a PAYG account – avoiding costly interest payments.
“It essentially takes (money) out of the highway tax fund and puts it into a Pay-As-You-Go account. Then we can spend it,” Kegley said. “But, you can only approve funding on what the citizens approve by vote, which has to be in the engineering report that defines the projects.”
The $66 million engineering report is what Commissioners approved on Monday. The report includes 40-projects and boasts 93.1 miles of road creation, paving and repaying; the construction of two bridges and other in infrastructure projects.
The county’s $55 million contribution will also be matched by nearly $12 million in federal funding.
The 2014 proposal will be the 15th PAYG program since the county inaugurated the program in 1977 if, like the previous 14 programs, it’s approved by the voters.
All 11 municipalities in the county will benefit from the program, with multiple upgrades to roadways in all of them. The city of Mobile, the biggest of the cities in Mobile County, will see improvements on 33 miles of roadway through the county’s 2014 PAYG Program.
Kegley said using the program almost doubles the amount of money the county is able to spend on road projects.
“In a regular bond program, you sell bonds and then you take the proceeds from those bonds you start the design process, right of way acquisition, utility relocation and you bid it, but the whole time you’re paying interest on those bonds,” he said. “In the Pay-As-You-Go Program, the money is already in that special tax fund. So not only are you not paying interest, the money in a checking and savings account that’s actually accruing interest.”
Other highlights include bridge construction on Padget Switch Road over Carl’s Creek in Bayou La Batre and on Wilmer-Georgetown Road over Big Creek, which are the two most expensive projects in the 2014 program at a cost of $4 million and $3.7 million respectively.
“Two of the County’s largest responsibilities to taxpayers is public safety, and providing adequate and safe roads for our constituents,” said Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl. “I am excited to see these road improvements as they provide a better quality of life for our constituents, as well as bring in much needed economic development to Mobile County.”
The engineering report includes detailed descriptions of each of the 40 projects included in the 2014 PAYG Program. Part of that report is listed below, but the full report, with maps, is available online at mobilecountyal.gov.