TCHOA Latest News

TCHOA News: April 3, 2024

Posted on 4/3/2024

TCHOA News: April 10, 2024

Posted on 4/10/2024

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From the Director's Desk

TDOT Commits to Legislative Conference

Long-range planning and State Aid Programs are annual topics of interest to county highway officials. With that in mind, CAOs and staff will be able to hear about the latest issues directly from the department, particularly Deputy Commissioner Preston Elliott and Dan Pallme, assistant bureau chief of Freight & Logistics. The two have committed to speak to the TCHOA membership on Tuesday morning, May 21, the opening day of the Legislative Conference in Sevier County.
 
Additional details are coming together as we try to fill our time with valuable information. TCHOA training sessions begin at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 21. As changes are made to the schedule, those details will be made available.

If you would like to register for TCSA's Legislative Conference, please click here. The overflow hotel currently is
Old Creek Lodge (680 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738). The room rate is $129 per night. To book a room, you must call Guest Services at 865-430-7200 and tell them you are with Tennessee County Services. 

If you no longer need a room reservation that you have made, or you need to be added to the hotel overflow request list, please contact Carol Engroff at [email protected].

Click Here to Register for the Conference

Deadline Approaching for State Aid Contracts

In an effort by TDOT to create its own set of reporting data each year, State Aid contracts will have a more definite start and end, coinciding with the end of each fiscal year. That means that resurfacing contracts that were once drawn for 2 years will not be available going forward. The provisions of the Transportation Modernization Act of 2023 calls for the department to report its State Aid spending during each fiscal year, and the department is working to make sure it can make FY-to-FY comparisons when it provides this data to the General Assembly each year.
 
While this is an unexpected change in our procedures, I would urge you to consider that having this spending data at our fingertips, showing how we have effectively used this new appropriation, will go a long way towards demonstrating additional funding in the future is justified. As TCHOA works with the Administration and Legislature to secure that future funding to offset stagnant gasoline and motor fuel revenues, we as an organization need this information to make our case along with TDOT. Being able to plan our work and then work our plan was a major argument in the process of passing last year’s $300 million in State Aid Road monies. This will help us in the long term fulfill that commitment. Otherwise, we will be faced with maintaining our own and depending solely on local appropriations to do our much-needed road and bridge maintenance.
 
To that end, some have asked about letting contracts now for work to be completed by the end of the current FY. My recommendation is to delay the start of a new contract unless you are certain you and contractors can complete the work to meet the deadline for this year.
 
Below is a statement from TDOT about this deadline for the current fiscal year: 
“All state-aid contracts expire on June 30th. Any work done after this date will be at the expense of the county. These contracts cannot be extended any longer. The Department is trying to get a good representation of the amount of state-aid funds expended each fiscal year. To do that we have to cut all contracts off on the last day of the fiscal year. This gives the county and the state a month to get paperwork in for reimbursement and get those invoices paid.

The Department is being asked by the legislature to report on the amount of state-aid funds expended each fiscal year and this is the only way we could determine that by making a completion date the end of each fiscal year for contracts moving forward. It is highly recommended that before you request a contract from your State-Aid Coordinator to make sure that your contractor can get your project completed so that you can turn in paperwork for payment by mid-July each calendar year. Contracts are taking less than 2 weeks to get fully executed so this should help you with a timeframe with your contractor.”
Questions about making sure these contracts are closed, or to start new contracts in FY2024-2025, please be in contact with your State Aid coordinator.

FY 2024/2025 Budget Considerations

The closer we get to the end of the current fiscal year each spring, the budget questions start rolling in. And rightfully so. Highway departments need to consider three budgetary matters as they head into the budget planning session.

State fuel revenues: It is still early to know exact what those revenue projections will be, but at this point there does not appear to be enough evidence to support increasing the total amount counties statewide. So, each county should consider an amount no more than what you have budgeted for the current year. As we receive the data for the next two months of revenues, that could change. However, everything year-to-date indicates gasoline and diesel fuel totals are stagnant and will continue to be through the next FY. I anticipate making projections available after the May report becomes available, just prior to the Legislative Conference.

EV fee income: The revenue sharing portion of the new state registration fees for all electric vehicles (EVs) started in January 2024, and the first disbursements were sent to county trustees in mid-March. Marked Transportation Modernization, the payments to counties are designated for county highway road and bridge programs and are distributed to counties the same way as gas/diesel fuels. The number of EVs registered in your counties is not a factor in that distribution, so every county will receive a portion of the new EV fee.

If you have not already done so, I would urge you to contact your county trustee and make sure they understand that revenue is for use by the county highway department, as referenced in the Transportation Modernization Act passed in 2023. A new account number, 46925 titled “Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Registration Fee” has been created by the Comptroller’s Office to handle these revenues. A copy of the new County Uniform Chart of Accounts can be viewed by clicking here or by clicking the red button below.


TCHOA dues: Dues notices for budget purposes were mailed to every highway department during the past two weeks. Those amounts remain unchanged. Invoices for dues will be mailed the first of July, in the new fiscal year.
 
Click Here to View the Latest County Uniform Chart of Accounts

Legislative Action

The General Assembly is moving towards an end of this year’s session, likely in the next three weeks. While several proposals impacting county highway departments and officials have been considered, below is a short list of those with the biggest direct effect. A more complete legislative report is attached.

Fuel purchasing: County highway departments will have added flexibility in purchasing gas and diesel in bulk under SB2432/HB2547 (Haile, Lamberth), now headed to the governor for his signature. In short, the bill authorizes a county, municipality, metropolitan government, utility district, local education agency (LEA), or other local governmental entity (LGE) to purchase gasoline or diesel fuel in bulk amounts that would exceed the applicable bid limits in the open market without public advertisement or competitive bidding. It requires the entity, whenever possible, to obtain at least three documented quotes. It also authorizes LGEs to purchase such products from the Department of General Services' (DGS) contract where available.

Recall elections: An effort to create a recall process for non-constitutional public officials has been taken off notice in the Senate and is effectively dead for this legislative session. SB1580/HB1818 (Lowe, Butler) would have put elected county highway officials across the state at a risk of facing such a recall. While the House sponsor has the bill on notice for April 3 in the Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee, the Senate State & Local Government Committee took the bill off notice just before it closed its business for the session.

Sponsors worked hard to find an amendment palatable to members in an effort to gain support. One such amendment would have required the recall petition to be signed by at least 66 percent of the total votes cast for that officer in the last regular election. I would expect a form of this bill to be introduced again next year.

Work release inmates: The full Senate has already passed SB2536/HB2444 (Jackson, Haile), a proposal dealing with some of the unintended consequences created by a similar bill last year involving the use of certain county inmates for such things as roadside litter pickups.

Current law, effective January 1, 2024, generally provides that a prisoner of a county workhouse or jail who is released from custody on work release or otherwise allowed to leave the grounds of the county workhouse or jail for employment or to perform work in the community, whether the work is paid or unpaid, must use an electronic monitoring device at all times when the prisoner is not on the grounds of the county workhouse or jail. The entity employing the prisoner or utilizing the prisoner for work must pay the costs of the electronic monitoring device. However, the requirement to use an electronic monitoring device does not apply if the prisoner, at all times while not on the grounds of the county workhouse or jail (i) is supervised by an armed law enforcement or corrections officer and (ii) remains in the direct eyesight of such officer.

This bill adds an additional exception to the requirement to use an electronic monitoring device if the judge of the sentencing court and the sheriff of the county where the workhouse or jail is located approve in writing an exemption to allow the prisoner to be released from custody on work release or otherwise be allowed to leave the grounds of the county workhouse or jail for employment or to perform work in the community without an electronic monitoring device.

The full House could consider the bill as early as next week.
Click Here to View the Latest Bill Report
Thank you for your continued service and support, 

Brett
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C/O Brett Howell, Executive Director
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