Claremore Daily Progress

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September 18, 2012

Balanced budget builds barriers

Reserved funds reduced, used to fill shortage

CLAREMORE — Rogers County commissioners balanced its budget Monday; but at a cost, as approximately $328,000 is taken from reserves to bring the budget in line.

Now, the county will be facing a potential for a $2 million shortfall in June 2013, and a lot of “if’s” that could accompany the issue.
The commissioners used the $1.2 million carryover that departments had left during the last fiscal year, along with reducing county reserves from 10 percent down to only 5 percent.
Commissioner Mike Helm has consistently claimed the budget issues were due to building the new courthouse,  but reports show the addition of multiple departments is what is taking a toll on the bottom line.
The ball is rolling, as the Rogers County Excise Board will have the final say during their upcoming meeting.
It is likely that a special meeting will be called to review the budget, but just as likely that the board will approve the budget as submitted, according to County Clerk Peggy Armstrong.
Armstrong saidd that in her time working for the county the excise board has always approved the commissioner’s budget as submitted.
To balance the budget, $328,000 of the reserve fund was added back into the figures to cover expenses.
This decision came after the District Attorney’s office determined that Helm’s option to pay for the sheriff’s vehicles from T-Highway funds would not be permitted under statute. 
“All three of us received legal opinion,” Helm said. “We got the legal opinion that we could not do it out of T-Highway. The only way we could do the sheriff’s cars is to figure the budget at 95 percent.”
This decision resulted in the use of reserve funds to balance the budget adding to the potential shortfall for the next fiscal year.
This option balances the budget and brings $140,000 back into the general fund, Helm said.

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