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41% of roads rated "poor" in Colorado's Arapahoe County amid inflation, more residents and major budget shortfall

41% of Arapahoe County roads rated "poor," as county faces inflation, more residents and major budge
41% of Arapahoe County roads rated "poor," as county faces inflation, more residents and major budge 03:18

Arapahoe County roads aren't getting the repairs they need, and they're quickly falling apart due to a backlog of $70 million. County leaders say it's, in part, due to a major shortfall with the overall county budget.


Arapahoe County Commissioner Carrie Warren-Gully said the county budget has remained flat for 25 years. Meanwhile, the county is facing increasing costs and demand from residents and a growing community. She added Arapahoe County is the third most populous county in Colorado.

"We haven't been able to keep up with inflation that's been going on in our economy, and we have not been able to keep up with the amazing growth that's happening in Arapahoe County," Warren-Gully said. "We are facing this shortfall that we're very concerned about."

The budget shortfalls have already had a major impact on Arapahoe County roads. The County Public Works and Development 2023 report card released this week shows 41% of the county roadways are in "poor" condition.

"Our goal in Arapahoe County is to keep our roadway assets at 85% -- either in a excellent, good or fair condition. Currently, we're at 59%," said Bryan Weimer, the director of PWD.

The report assesses the county's $1.6 billion in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, traffic signals, signs, guardrails and snow fences.

Weimer said much of the infrastructure needs work. However, the department only receives about $9 million annually to maintain Arapahoe County infrastructure. It's estimated $26 million is needed every year to keep the roads in current condition, and $70 million is needed get all infrastructure in good condition.

"That is a big number, and our leaders are looking at that over a five to 10-year period to ensure that that is done in the most efficient manner that we can do it," Weimer said.

County leaders know people are paying more in property taxes. Commissioner Warren-Gully says most of the revenue, however, automatically goes to things like schools, recreation and libraries. The county only gets 12% of the revenue and goes toward things like roads.

Commissioner Warren-Gully said there are three options the county is considering to balance the budget and help improve county roads.

"We can do nothing and really face a very difficult situation next year with our budget and our ability to maintain the essential services services," said the Warren-Gully said.

That includes $35 million in immediate cuts to essential services next year like public safety, roads and homelessness prevention.

Other options include asking voters to add a new .25% sales tax. Another option is to ask voters to approve a ballot measure allowing the county to raise its mill levy back to its pre-tabor level. Either one of these options would require voter approval on November's ballot.

"That would mean that, for a $500,000 home, it would only see an increase of $13 per month for the funding that goes to the county. However, the impact for the county is really great because it brings in $74 million," Warren-Gully said.

Commissioner Warren-Gully said the county has also been constrained by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) for the past 25 years. Arapahoe County is one of few counties out of 64 in the state that are constrained by TABOR, which limits how much tax revenue the government can keep. The county has always reduced its mill levy to offset those increases.

"That's why we're out in the community having conversations -- to get feedback and to hear from the community and also help them understand what we stand to lose," Warren-Gully said.

Weimer said inflation is also impacting the department. He added, the cost of construction materials have gone up 30% in the last five years, while the budget has remained the same, "Therefore, our buying power, and what we can do has decreased, and that leads toward the deterioration of our assets," Weimer said.

Public Works and Development will continue to prioritize projects based on safety, Weimer told CBS Colorado. "It comes down to available resources. We do as best we can with the resources we have," he said.

Infrastructure accomplishments include: Improving roads with a record 46,000 thousand tons of asphalt, completing the $30 million Iliff Avenue corridor improvement project and processing a record 8,700 building permits. Plus, the number of potholes to fill doubled between 2022 and 2023. Crews were also busy with those requests.

The report also shows traffic signs, roadway markings, guardrails and snow fencing are also in "poor" condition. Thirty-seven county bridges are in "fair" condition, and traffic signals are the only asset in "good" condition.

The county is encouraging residents to learn more about the budget shortfall and provide feedback on their website, which can be found on the county's budget website.

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