Members of the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board received an update on proposed funding changes for MPOs across the state during a meeting early Friday morning. This follows recent talks between state MPOs on how best to distribute Category 2 funding for the organizations.
These Category 2 funds are one of the primary funding sources for the MPOs, and are utilized in area roadway improvements and other updates. SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said the current talks involve basing the funding each organization gets on the size of the population it serves alone.
“That kills us, ” Barnett said. “It would take us from fairly close to $7 million (per year) … and would cut us back to $5.3 million. So it would make a huge dent in our available funding per year.”
The talks about future funding first started gaining traction about two years ago during talks between the 25 MPOs in the state through the Association of Texas Metropolitan Planning Organizations, also known as TEMPO. Currently, this Category 2 funding is allocated based on a series of weighted criteria, including the number of incapacitating wrecks within an MPO, traffic congestion and vehicle miles within a system.
However, Barnett said many of the larger MPOs pushed for a system that weighed population more heavily. In October 2016, TEMPO voted to recommend 87 percent of the Category 2 funding be allocated to the six largest MPOs, including the North Central Council of Governments, which covers much of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The remaining 13 percent of the Category 2 funds would be split between the 19 other MPOs. As one of the smallest MPOs in the area, Barnett said this would likely drop the SDMPO’s annual Category 2 funding from $8.1 million to $6.7 million.C
In documents for Friday’s meeting, SDMPO staff said that these estimates do not include the recent population increase that the SDMPO saw when it expanded its borders to include all of Grayson County. However, TEMPO said any increases in population would be reflected in the final figures.
In the documents, SDMPO staff also said the recommended changes will not take affect this year due to the time it took to develop the formula. Any changes that are made to the funding allocation must be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission, which could also choose to reject any changes.
In the past week, Barnett said he met with TEMPO and spent two hours discussing a possible move to a distribution based solely on population. This conversation was cut short by representatives from the Houston/Galveston area, Barnett said.
Other proposals include a formula that puts a 50 percent focus on population. Under this formula, the annual funding for the SDMPO would be about $5.8 million, Barnett said. By comparison, the 100 percent population distribution would drop the annual funding to just $5.3 million.
When gauging the possible options that were presented, Barnett said he would prefer the 87-13 split as it offers the SDMPO the highest funding.
“If we are splitting 50-50 and we already have a consensus vote on the table, then I think we should stick with the consensus,” he said.
Barnett said that there is no hard deadline in place for these negotiations. TEMPO is expected to continue these talks during a meeting in early June.