Claremore Daily Progress

September 17, 2013

County budget numbers still not finalized

Commissioners wrestle with employee raises vs. county roads and bridges funding

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The Rogers County Commissioners moved one step closer Monday to balancing the $19 million 2013-14 budget, but the cost could mean funding cuts to road and bridge maintenance.
Although road funding is on the chopping block, some employees and commissioner Mike Helm are looking for a way to give cost of living increases to employees.
Commissioners cut the budget by approximately $733,000, proposing each district pay more of the employee benefit costs.
The cuts would allow each department to maintain more of their budget requests and lower the burden on the county’s general fund.
Currently, the general fund is used to pay all the benefits for  approximately 84 full-time road workers.
The new proposal would require the general fund be used to pay the benefits for 45 employees, making each district responsible for their remaining employees.
This would save the general fund, but decrease funding for roads and bridges, according to commissioners.
Each commissioner would have about $250,000 funding cut from roads and bridges when the proposed employee benefits are combined with a recent cut to the One-Cent Tax fund.
Voters passed a measure in August to dedicate 1/8 of a cent from the One-Cent sales tax to the pay down the $32.5 million debt resulting from the Material Services lawsuit.
Despite cuts to road funding, employee raises still hang in the balance with Helm making a motion to give cost of living raises to all county employees. Commissioners tabled Helm’s request.
Commissioners will discuss it further at 1 p.m. on Sept. 23 after CPA Bill Turner has reviewed the board’s proposals and calculated the new budget figures.
The raises, if approved, would be $200 a month and paid from the excess use tax fund, according to Helm.
Approximately $633,000 in funding would be needed from the use tax fund.
This does not include the $220,000 in additional funding needed from T-Highway accounts to insure all county employees receive the cost of living adjustment, according to commissioner Dan DeLozier.
If the board approves the employee raises, road funding would be decreased by an additional $220,000 bringing the total amount of cuts to roads and bridges to about $1 million.