The Morgan County Council has decided to cash in on a new revenue source that could help maintain county roads in the future. Starting July 1, county residents will be paying a new $10 fee on their vehicle registrations.
By voting to establish a local option transportation corridor preservation fee April 4, the county is set up to receive a $10 fee from every vehicle registered in Morgan County. Economic Development Director Steve Lyon pointed out that the $10 fee begins July 1, and six months later, Jan. 1, 2018, state residents will no longer be required to pay a $15 safety inspection fee due to legislative changes.
“It would save residents $5 going ahead in 2018 in paying this fee,” Lyon said.
The fee is meant to be set aside in a state-managed, interest-bearing account for counties to use when paying landowners for their property that is planned for future roadways or interchanges. In Morgan County, this money could be used to pay Mountain Green landowners for property where a future full I-84 interchange could be located in the future.
The more time that goes by, the more people want a full Interstate 84 interchange in Mountain Green. Now, Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden; Sen. Stewart Adams, R-Layton; Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Salt Lake City; and Weber County Commissioners are involved, joining Morgan County Councilmembers and Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon.
“It allows us some discussion with UDOT,” Lyon said. “It lets them know we are stepping up to the plate.”
However, with House Bill 152 passed this legislative season, counties can now use half that corridor preservation fund to maintain roads. “HB152 was a bid game-changer,” said Lyon, noting that a Box Elder legislative representative presented the amendment because a “lot was sitting without corridors being purchased.”
“We need to be more proactive,” Council Chairwoman Tina Cannon said. “I see this as more funding for local roads. In a growing county, where one of the biggest problems is road maintenance, we should be planning for this. This gives us a tool to do that.”
“If we manage it correctly, we could use it for future use on roads in the county,” Lyon said.
In the past six years, according to Utah Tax Commission numbers, Morgan could have collected a total of $758,000 in vehicle fees at $10 a vehicle, Lyon said. The number of vehicle registrations has been increasing 3 to 5 percent each year, which matches the population growth. Now that the council has enacted the fee, it is set to collect $133,000 in the first year, he said.
“Road upgrades are desperately needed. It is a way to fix roads and get maintenance without raising taxes,” Lyon said. “This is a user fee for the roads” in a county where 66 percent of the population leaves the bedroom community every day for jobs outside the county.
While taxes wouldn’t be increasing, fees would, said Councilman Ned Mecham, who voted with Councilman Roland Haslam against the ordinance.
“In the county we keep making sure our certified tax rate goes down. We always try to lower things and it gets taken somewhere else,” Councilman Austin Turner said. “But how long do we neglect our roads?”
The county can enact, change or repeal the fee at any time, Lyon noted. He said that eight other counties in Northern Utah have adopted it, and Morgan would be the ninth. Juan and Sanpete had the fee at one time and later repealed it.
“I would be happy to pay $10 per vehicle to have some potholes fixed on Morgan Valley Drive,” Councilman John Barber said. He noted that if the county spent $1 million per year on roads for the next 10 years and still not have them all fixed.
“It is beyond time,” Cannon said.