WAYNE COUNTY, PA — At a town hall meeting at the Damascus Area School in December of last year, Garret Westover of PennDOT’s highway administration unit reported that the county’s …
WAYNE COUNTY, PA — At a town hall meeting at the Damascus Area School in December of last year, Garret Westover of PennDOT’s highway administration unit reported that the county’s total budget was $18.2 million with about half of that going toward salaries and wages. After paying for expenses like groundskeeping, equipment repair, fuel, signage and lighting, only 10 percent of that $18.2 million remained for road maintenance and repairs.
These numbers left some lingering questions about PennDOT’s budget and how it all gets divided. The River Reporter spoke to Westover to get a more detailed breakdown of the Wayne County budget.
Wayne County’s gross allocation for the fiscal year of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 was $18.2 million. Westover said that a portion of every county’s budget must go toward supporting its district office (Wayne County, which is in District 4, has a district office in Dunmore) as well as the central office in Harrisburg. After that, Wayne County is left with a net allocation of $14.7 million.
By far the largest expense, $9.3 million, goes toward salaries and wages. Westover said that Wayne County has 94 permanent PennDOT employees and around 10 to 15 temporary wage employees throughout the year. Out of the 94 salaried employees, there are 58 equipment operators, six mechanics, nine highway foremen and a five-person management staff including a county manager, two assistant county managers, an equipment manager and a roadway programs coordinator who “holds the purse strings of the whole county.” The rest are administrative employees who support the mechanics’ garage and keep track of inventory, and roadway program technicians who monitor the county’s contract work.
The salaries of PennDOT’s 94 permanent employees account for about $8.2 million, and the handful of wage employees throughout the year account for about $250,000. Westover said in a typical year, PennDOT pays about $850,000 in overtime; he also noted that insurance and retirement benefits also figure into that final $9.3 million total.
At the December town hall, one Wayne resident challenged PennDOT about its $18.2 million budget. “The motor license fund, which is dedicated for roads and such, has $3.8 billion in it, and if you divided that equally among the 67 counties that’s $56.9 million each. So why is Wayne County being short-changed?”
The answer was that PennDOT’s budget is not divided equally among counties. Instead, each county receives its “Additional State Highway Allocation” (ASHMA) based on a formula involving variables like the amount of traffic and the number of bridges within. Urban areas, therefore, typically receive more than rural areas. Westover said that the formula is based on PA Act 3 of 1997.
At the town hall, Sen. Lisa Baker also responded to the resident, saying she shared her concerns about the ASHMA formula and has introduced legislation to update the 1997 legislation.