HC Commissioners object to possible new legislation

Published 8:14 pm Friday, May 6, 2011

WINTON – Hertford County does not want to be left holding the short end of the financial stick.

On Monday, the county’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution that opposes House Bill 635. That piece of legislation, introduced early last month, will adjust the distribution formula for funds expended on the intrastate system and transportation improvement program. It passed its first reading and has been sent to the House Committee on Transportation for further study.

According to the text of HB 635, the Secretary of Transportation shall, on or before October 1 of each year, calculate the estimated amount of funds subject to this section that will be available for the next seven program years beginning that October 1. The Secretary shall then calculate a tentative percentage share for each distribution region by multiplying the total estimated amount by a factor that is based on:

(1) Sixty-six percent (66%) on the estimated population of the distribution region compared to the total estimated population of the State; and

(2) Thirty-four percent (34%) on the fraction one-seventh, which provides an equal share based on the number of distribution regions.

Hertford County is part of Distribution Region A, which includes Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Edgecombe, Gates, Halifax, Hyde, Johnston, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.

Hertford County officials fear that, if approved, the legislation will severely shortchange rural areas.

“This will affect the money we receive (from the state) for our local highways,” said Johnnie Ray Farmer, Chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners. “The big cities, the big counties want to change the (distribution) formula where more money will go the big cities and counties and less to the rural areas. This bill takes money away from our road improvement projects. That’s why we oppose this shift of funds.”

Farmer said the current distribution formula used over the past 20 years by the state was equitable and fair for all 100 counties.

The resolution, which will be forwarded to state officials, pointed out that the highway divisions serving the state’s metropolitan areas already receive the lion’s share of DOT funding. Changing the equity formula, which places even more emphasis on population numbers, will harm the rural areas.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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