Pennies for Potholes

Pennies for Potholes
Pennies for Potholes

Pennies for Potholes

The change of seasons from winter to spring is often synonymous with orange cones and road improvement projects. The projects that take place along our major thoroughfares, i.e., our interstate, U.S., and state highways most likely are the result of the State’s multi-year road improvement plan. But, what about our local road improvement and maintenance project needs? Have you ever wondered where the money comes from to repair a pothole, repave a street, or maintain our gravel roads?

This winter’s freeze and thaw has created havoc on our secondary roads. In addition, heavy rainfall has resulted in flash flooding, swollen creeks, and rivers overflowing their banks. The devastation is wide spread and none of our rural counties are immune. Social media is inundated with photos of the destruction from potholes, to wash outs, to water covered roadways, to muddy secondary roads. In addition to being an overall nuisance to those impacted, these conditions also pose safety concerns in the event of an emergency situation. When faced with the prospect of road repair and maintenance, we all rely heavily on our municipal, county, and state highway departments to ensure we have a safe route to travel.

Therefore, there is no better time to remind the residents of Illinois that Spending Locally First ensures the department will be able to fund future road improvement and maintenance projects.

The State of Illinois, and many of our municipalities and counties, especially those in the rural regions of the State, are experiencing unprecedented fiscal challenges. While the overall funding mechanism for road improvements may vary by department, many, if not all, rely on some level of local revenues (i.e. tax dollars) to fund their road improvement and maintenance projects.

Stagnant or declining revenue streams as a result of buying patterns that no longer support local businesses, which generate tax revenues and provide local jobs, are plaguing our rural regions. This new reality is placing increased pressure on local governments and other taxing districts to provide essential services, such as road maintenance. The resulting dilemma for local governments is to identify new ways to balance the budget. This can mean increasing revenues (i.e. raising taxes), cutting expenses, or a combination of the two. Either way, rural residents lose, as they either pay higher taxes and/or have fewer services available.

In the simplest of terms, the more money we spend locally and within our State, the more tax dollars we will generate to support state, county, and municipal budgets, resulting in more resources to fund our highway departments that keep our roads in good working order.

Certainly, there may be “perceived” lower cost alternatives available online, or perhaps, just across the border in a neighboring state, but the reality is when you purchase items and pay sales or motor fuel taxes out of state, you are supporting their state, county, and municipal budgets, not ours.

University of Illinois Extension Educator Susan Odum says, “In a nut shell, if essential public services, such as road maintenance, are important to you, then shopping local SHOULD be important to you, because it provides the resources needed for maintenance efforts to occur.


Susan Odum

Extension Educator, Community Economic Development

University of Illinois Extension

912 S Commercial Street, Suite 4

Harrisburg, IL  62946