SHELBYVILLE — Adding transit services funding to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s budget will cause hardships for many counties and townships, Shelby County Highway Engineer Alan Spesard said Wednesday.

Spesard told the Shelby County Board that the state budget plan approved by lawmakers in July after a two-year stalemate moves transit funding from the general fund to IDOT’s Motor Fuel Tax-funded road maintenance plan, resulting in a $50 million cut for county and township highway funds across Illinois.

“It’s a terrible story, “Spesard said. “And, worse if things don’t change, it will happen every year.”

Spesard said moving transit costs to the road fund means an inequitable distribution of motor fuel tax dollars.

He said that “94 percent of Illinois counties will get no benefit from this, either in road or transit money."

For Shelby County, the loss means up to $200,000 less in county and township coffers for resurfacing and road maintenance.

“It means we won’t be doing much seal coating, oiling and chipping next year,” Spesard said.

The losses come as no surprise to state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.

“This is what happens when you don’t get a budget for two years,” Rose said. “I can’t even use the word budget to describe what happened in July.”

Rose said he had heard from several counties and townships in his district about the cuts in road funds.

“Without significant change I see more cuts happening because of Illinois budget troubles,” he said.

Central Illinois Public Transit, the rural transportation system that serves Shelby County, expects no increase in revenue from the tax juggling. CIPT Director Susan Love compared the changes to a “chicken and the egg” situation, especially in larger counties her agency serves.

“We need good roads to provide good transportation,” Love said. “In Shelby and Montgomery counties, for example, those are a lot of county and township roads that cover a large area. No one benefits if those roads can’t be maintained.”

Shelby County Board Chairman Dave Cruitt said he and other board members continue to press Rose and other legislators to find funding solutions.

“This has an economic effect on counties and townships,” Cruitt said. “Our representatives need to know how much difference it will make so that they can help us. “

“We’ve got to stop digging ourselves into a hole,” Rose said. “The state is $1.5 billion in the hole and at some point, it has to stop. Taxpayers and local governments can’t keep going like this.”

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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