The loss of two-thirds of the county budget when the one cent sales tax expires in September will mean significant cuts county-wide, as previously reported.
However, each of the three districts will prioritize their budgets as their respective commissioner deems appropriate.
District 1 Commissioner Dan Delozier spoke about what District 1 residents can expect starting October 1.
“Cutting county services is something that we have to do, we don’t have any choice there,” Delozier said. “But safety is our number one concern.”
District 1 will primarily see cuts in the number and types of road projects completed.
“I had a lot of road projects planned for right now through the first of the year that we will have to cancel,” Delozier said. “But the ones where safety is an issue, we will be taking care of, and we’re doing that right now.”
The Cherokee Nation is helping the county finish a handful of additional road projects.
“We’re doing everything we can to continue our services,” Delozier said.
All of the cemeteries will be maintained, the solid waste dump in Chelsea will remain open and county crews will continue to take care of ditching problems and trees along the roadways.
“By having the dump and by having the annual Trash Off we are able to continue to help people get rid of their large item like tire, furniture, washer and dryers,” Delozier said. The benefit for the county is that those items end up in the dump and not along the side of the road.
Delozier also addressed concerns about layoffs within the District 1 staff.
“We’re putting a plan together in our district of how we are going to manage this, and right now layoffs aren’t part of it,” Delozier said. “I’ve got very good people in my district. I don’t want to lose them. We are going to do everything we can to keep people and still maintain our services the best we can.”
District 1 encompasses most of the city of Claremore, and Delozier said he has received calls from Claremore residents who feel as though the one cent sales tax was something they were paying but not getting any benefit from.
“I don’t want the people of Claremore to feel like what we do doesn’t impact them too,” Delozier said. Although Claremore meets the population requirement whereby the city and not the county is responsible for the roadways, Delozier v “we work with the city of Claremore well and try to do what projects we can and help in any way that’s possible.”
In response to the common complaint that the county did not do enough to market the importance of the tax, Delozier reiterated that it was illegal for the county commissioners to use county resources to campaign for a ballot issue.
Because Delozier has been a commissioner for 12 years, the primary election was the third time that he’d seen the sales tax on the ballot. “There was always a committee that was put together that the commissioners couldn’t be involved in, and there is a committee now,” Delozier said, that exists to campaign for the tax.
“The one cent sales tax, we can’t put that back on the general election because we have to wait six months,” Delozier said, correcting an implication in a previous article that county was intentionally avoiding the general election. “December 26 is the soonest it could be put on.”
Although a specific date for the special election has not been decided, the county will wait until after the holidays and the start of 2019.
“We’re not putting this on a special ballot to keep people from voting. We have to put it on a special ballot because there are no other ballots to put it on and we can’t wait,” Delozier said.
Once the tax is put back up for a vote, Delozier is optimistic.
“I think people see the benefits to passing this sales tax,” Delozier said. “I’ve been here 12 years and in that 12 years we’ve had it the entire time. We’ve done a lot of good in our county.”