Claremore Daily Progress

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April 14, 2013

One-Cent tax expenditures revealed

CLAREMORE — Rogers County voters will decide the fate of the one-cent sales tax May 14, if approved the tax will run for five years.

The tax is to be designated “soley for the construction, improvement, maintenance and repair of county roads and bridges,” according to the May 14 ballot.

The Rogers County Commissioners have spent $8.4 million this fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2012, from the one-cent account.

The one-cent account includes several sub-accounts including Maintenance and Operations (M&O), used for operations, Capital Outlay, provides for fixed assets, and Salaries, to be paid to employees that perform roadwork, according to Oklahoma State Statute.

The one-cent fund has paid $6.3 million in M&O expenses, $1.5 million in Capital Outlay and $700,000 in Salaries.

Each sub-account contains various expenses, however the majority of funds are used for equipment and asphalt or other road surfacing products.

Equipment purchases, at $2.1 million, accounted for 25 percent of total expenses for the fund.

The commissioners use two options to purchase equipment, payment in full or lease purchase.

Lease purchase payments are recurring monthly expenses and in the last ten months $545,665 has been paid to several vendors including Welch State Bank, Oklahoma State Bank and Caterpillar Financial Services.

District 3 Commissioner Kirt Thacker pays about $40,000 monthly in lease payments.

District 2 Commissioner Mike Helm recently lowered his monthly lease payments from $29,000 to $9,653.

District 1 Commissioner Dan DeLozier paid $8,538 in March, but soon will be reduced to $5,889, according to District 1 staff.

This year the commissioners have spent 54 percent or $4.6 million of total one-cent expenses to purchase road materials or pay sub-contractors for roadwork.

DeLozier reports that the county does not have the ability to perform some micro-surfacing roadwork, requiring the work to be sub-contracted.

Additionally, Helm is the only commissioner to own an asphalt machine.

This year about $4 million has been paid to subcontractors, including companies such as Donelson Construction Company, a paving contractor from Clever, MO.

About 50 percent of all sub-contracts were paid to Donelson, with DeLozier paying $432,000 and Helm spending more than $1.6 million with the vendor.  

 Fuel is another common expense and each district’s fuel cost directly reflect the distance traveled to collect materials or the amount of fuel provided to other agencies.

DeLozier has the highest fuel cost of $195,000 and provides fuel to the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

Helm has spent $180,000 on fuel and provides the service to a number of area agencies including Oologah Talala Emergency Medical Services, the town of Oologah and several rural water districts.

Thacker currently has the lowest fuel cost at $140,000 and he supplies fuel to area agencies including the Rogers County Assessor’s Office.

Some of the fuel costs are recovered thru reimbursements to each district by the area agencies.

The cost of doing daily business goes beyond materials and salaries, each commissioner spends money monthly on tools, parts and other supplies.

For example, Helm spent $40,000 on tires since July and the commissioners have paid more than $25,000 to local automotive suppliers.

Due to increasing expenses, the commissioners have actively voiced their concerns about the upcoming vote and the impact it will have on their budget.

Thacker recently said,  “If the one-cent goes away about two thirds of the employees goes away. Without the one-cent you may get your ditches mowed once but snow patrol is not happening. There will be no weed eating around the stop signs. If you have no money you do without. It would be detrimental to the county.”

According to the county financial reports Rogers County is currently spending less than one percent of the total one-cent fund on salaries.

Currently, the county is using the t-highway account to pay salaries and provide operational expenses and the one-cent for roadwork and equipment, according to county financial statements.

Compared to the county t-highway account, the one-cent fund accounts for almost all roadwork expenses.

“T-highway revenues are from state imposed fuel taxes and disbursements are for the maintenance and construction of county roads and bridges,” according to the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s office.

The t-highway fund pays $1.8 million in salaries and benefits.

That is 73 percent of the total salaries paid from both the t-highway and one-cent accounts.

Additionally the commissioners have paid other employee expenses this year from the t-highway fund including $14,000 in travel, $22,000 for cellular or other phone services, $47,000 for uniforms and supplies, $3,800 on medical treatment, $4,680 for office supplies and $1,000 for Java Daves Coffee.

The t-highway account pays for additional daily operating expenses including utility services for the county barns, including alarm services, gas, water, trash, extermination services, insurance and electricity.

No expenses were paid for road materials or asphalt from the t-highway funds.

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