Editor’s Note: This story is the second in a three-part series.
Over the last few years, many in Baldwin County have echoed a claim about funding from the state of Alabama:
“We’ve got a large number of roads and other infrastructure projects that we’re trying to get done in this county, but it’s hard to do when we aren’t always getting our fair share of the funding from the state,” Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis said. “Baldwin County puts a good amount of revenue into the system, but it’s always questionable what kind of return we see on that revenue from year to year. it’s certainly something we’re looking at closely.”
With the state legislature looking at possibly further raising the gasoline tax this year, the question becomes even more important to Baldwin County residents and leaders alike: Is Baldwin County really a “donor county” for other less prosperous regions of the state or are we getting our fair share?
Five-year comparison on revenue received from state
Over the last five years, the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization has continued to monitor the gasoline and diesel sold in Baldwin County and its effects on revenues for the county and the state, as well as how much Baldwin County receives back in ALDOT funding.
In 2013, Baldwin County generated $45.8 million in total gasoline tax, with the state taking a little over $18 million of those revenues.
Baldwin County got back approximately $4.6 million from ALDOT in equity funding that year, less than 25 percent of the total money it sent to the state.
In 2018, Baldwin County took in $53.8 million in total gasoline tax revenue, with the state taking $21.8 million. Baldwin County got back $5.53 million in ALDOT funding, getting about 25.3 percent of the total amount it put into the system.
During that five year time period from 2013 to 2018, Baldwin County’s contribution to the state gas tax revenues grew by $3.8 million (or about 21 percent) but the state appropriation back to the county only increased by $930,000.
Diesel tax revenues see a similar effect.
In 2013, Baldwin County generated slightly over $11 million in diesel sales tax with the state taking about $4.3 million of that amount. Baldwin County got back $30,207 in ALDOT funding from the diesel tax, or about 0.6 percent of what it sent to the state.
In 2018, Baldwin County had $13.6 million in total diesel tax sales, generating $5.3 million in state diesel tax. Baldwin County received $37,363 back from the state, again about 0.6 percent of what it sent in to the state.
Baldwin County’s diesel tax revenues sent to the state increased by $1 million over the last five years, but the appropriation back to the county from the state only increased by $7,156.
Baldwin County Commissioner Jeb Ball, who chairs the county’s Road and Bridge committee, said he would like to see more funding from ALDOT returned to the county.
“We’ve known for a long time that Baldwin County is a donor county and we’ve always had to fight to get our fair share of money back from the state,” Ball said. “It can be frustrating when we have to put projects on indefinite hold because we can’t get the funding we need from the state to complete them.”
Ball said the county tries to find creative ways to look for more funding opportunities, adding that getting additional money back from the state would also help speed up the county’s ability to tackle projects.
“We’re out there looking for matching grants and trying to find ways to make the money we do get back stretch as far as we can,” Ball said. “When you’re dealing with resurfacing or road paving, you can’t squeeze it all into the budget so we have to be creative in finding ways to make up these funding gaps.”
State Senator Chris Elliott, who campaigned for his current office on making sure Baldwin County gets its fair share back from the state, said he will continue to advocate for ALDOT investing more in Baldwin County.
“We want them investing revenue where the revenue is generated, and that’s Baldwin County,” Elliott said.
Elliott said additional ALDOT funding for special projects like the diverging diamond interchange set for the I-10/181 corridor, the widening of 181 and other resurfacing projects on state roads in the county does increase the total amount of funding given back to the county.
“An important part of the calculus in measuring what our fair share is is what ALDOT spends on projects here,” Elliott said. “And we need to make sure the state is cognizant that investing down here in Baldwin County is always going to net a good return.”
Next week: With the state legislature looking at raising the gas tax statewide, what effects could that have on Baldwin County?