The Laurel Star reported this week that the Town of Laurel will not receive funds from Municipal Street Aid this fiscal year. The article explains these funds:
Since the 1970s, local cities and towns throughout the state have benefited from an annual pot of money known as “Municipal Street Aid.” This is funding that is appropriated to municipalities by the State Legislature out of the Delaware Transportation Trust Fund. The money has been given to the local governments to be used for the maintenance of city streets.
All 56 municipalities in the state of Delaware have seen these funds dry up. For Laurel, it amounts to $90,000 for the year. On a personal level, there’s a good chance that some of the street repairs needed in my neighborhood will not be completed. That stinks.
The town has put the money into the town’s 2010 budget before it was approved by the state. Maybe that was a mistake, but these funds are normally made available. There was also no indication that they would be cut. Mayor John Shwed states, “From what I understand this was a last minute deal that took place [in Legislative Hall] in the wee hours of the morning.” And therein is the rub.
For most other governments in the state, budgets have to be completed by the same time as the state’s budget, but unlike our state’s budget in most cases these other budgets are tied up and completed well before June 30th. Why can’t our legislature get the budget together and have it complete well before June 30th? In fact, how about giving the public time to read it before it’s passed?
It is well past time to end this practice of waiting until the last minute to get the work done. The proposed budget should be released by May 31, a full month before the new fiscal year begins. A passed balanced budget should be complete roughly one calendar week before June 30th. This nearly three week window would allow for public review and comment. This would allow for other city, town, and county governments to have a very good idea of how the state will be spending money in the new year so that reasoned decisions can be made about their respective budgets.
On the grand scale of things, whether or not a street repair is completed in my neighborhood is not a big deal. For the most part the only people affected by this are my neighbors and the occasional idiot who thinks a small street is a great place to drive 55. The greater idea is putting together and passing a state budget in a timely manner.