A few months ago, it looked like Wichita's streets would get a boost from an additional $2.5 million in the city's budget.
It was one of few bright spots in a budget that included layoffs, cutbacks and fee hikes.
But sales and gas taxes have waned even more than expected. Now the city says it can't spend additional money on street repair.
Instead, City Council members learned Tuesday, it will spend about $6 million on contract street maintenance — the same as last year. That will let the overall quality of pavement in the city continue to decline.
Street quality has been a primary concern of neighborhood groups. The city has underfunded road repairs for years, letting overall street conditions slowly slide.
An Eagle analysis earlier this year found more than 500 miles of street in "critical" condition, many of them in residential neighborhoods.
It's unclear whether a planned $10 million boost to street repairs in next year's budget will survive as the city grapples with continued lagging revenue, particularly in sales and gas taxes.
Mayor Carl Brewer said he hopes the city can find some money next spring to boost road repairs. But he said the city must be cautious, because state cuts could further erode the city's budget.
"At the end of the day, we're still responsible if (the roads) tear up people's cars," Brewer said.
But he also saw a benefit in the budget cut for some who are annoyed by road construction.
"As much as they've been complaining about all those orange barrels, a lot of people will be saying, 'Thank God,' " Brewer said.
Vice Mayor Jim Skelton, who has long advocated for more street repair funding, grimaced at the cut and asked whether the city could slow the pace of buying new cars in the city's fleet.
City Manager Robert Layton said that if the city delays car maintenance or replacements, it could end up costing more because delayed repairs can lead to more expensive problems and putting off new vehicle purchases can mean existing cars age and have lower trade-in value.
Even after the street repair cuts and other trims, the city could have a projected $900,000 deficit at the end of the year.
Layton said if city cash flows show unexpected improvement or if other savings can be found, he would look into putting it back into the street repair fund. And the city may save some money because fuel prices remain lower than expected.
But a major snow storm or flooding this year could make the deficit worse, forcing the city to tap reserve funds as it did last year.