Montana's increased fuel taxes raised $6.2 million for road and bridge projects for cities and counties in its first four months.
The city of Missoula got just over $404,000, while the county received $119,382.
The state announced amounts available to cities and counties statewide last week. They can request the funding beginning March 1. The governments must have a plan to use the money and a $1 match for every $20 they're seeking.
The Montana Legislature last year increased the gasoline tax from 27 cents a gallon to 31.5 cents, and the diesel tax from 27.75 cents to 29.25 cents. About one-third of the tax increase goes to the department for state projects.
Missoula Chief Administrative Officer Dale Bickell was happy with the initial haul of around $404,000 and looked forward to what a whole year could bring in.
“It’s going to be a great benefit to us,” Bickell said. “Ongoing, it’s going to be $1 million or more.”
The city’s already planning on putting the gas tax funds toward South Avenue improvements, redoing a section of the road from Reserve to 36th streets.
The first phase of that project, expected to start this summer, will cost about $1.78 million total, Bickell said.
The city has to apply for the gas tax funds through the state, to make sure it’s being spent on transportation and infrastructure projects.
Bickell said they’re hoping to resurface several streets at the same time Missoula Water replaces water mains, and the funds could go to smaller projects like pothole patching in a particularly bad year.
“We intend to be all project-specific related to it,” Bickell said. “We want to show the state and our constituents the projects we’re doing.”
Missoula County received $119,382 from the state, which Chief Public Works Officer Greg Robertson said won’t, unfortunately, make much of a difference to their operations.
“That doesn’t amount to a whole lot when you’re talking a road project,” Robertson said.
Counties across Montana have lost federal funds in recent years, as Secure Rural School programs have stopped sharing money with local municipalities. Missoula County’s loss is around $400,000 per year, Robertson said.
A full year of gax tax revenue might make a bigger dent, Robertson said, but he isn’t counting on it.
“When you’re talking $200,000-$300,000, it seems like a lot, but when you’re building a road it won’t get you very far,” Robertson said. “But it will help with periodic maintenance.”
The County Commissioners and Robertson will discuss options — whether to spend or save the allocation — in next couple of weeks.