By Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun
Imagine paying thousands of dollars every year in property taxes and at the same time watching your roads literally crumble under the strain of increasing traffic. Unfortunately, some won’t have to imagine this because I’ve just described your reality.
Maybe you have even asked your County Commissioner why property tax money isn’t being used to maintain your road. He probably responded, “Almost all of your property tax money goes to public schools. Only about 15 percent goes to the county and most of that is not for roads.”
He is absolutely correct. But that does not need to be the case any longer.
For several years, candidates for Logan County Commissioner have used as their campaign platform the idea of directing a portion of property tax revenues toward road maintenance.
This is their well-thought-out logic: Due to significant growth in the county there is now a greater demand on roads. This new growth provides hundreds of thousands of new tax dollars to county government as entire subdivisions of property taxpayers move in. You might expect most of this new income to go to roads and you are right to do so.
In 2009, Logan County commissioners, some of whom campaigned on this concept, unanimously passed a resolution expressing their intent to use the new growth revenue specifically for this purpose.
You can read more about this vote in the Logan County District 1 Commissioner’s Aug. 29, 2009, special report at hd31.org/507.
However, after passage of this resolution and a downturn in the economy, the county saw smaller incremental increases in the growth of new revenues.
That is not the case this year. In part, due to so many new taxpayers coming into the area, Logan County commissioners appear to have several hundred thousand dollars of additional revenue to spend. On a side note, this means local school districts also have significantly more new revenue to spend. I’ll explain more about that in an upcoming article.
I believe the commissioners should follow the directive of their 2009 resolution and set aside much of the new revenue for road projects. This means they could completely pave unimproved mile sections of section line roads, or use it to pave roads within neighborhoods. Now would be a good time to end the regrettable practice of homeowners having to raise funds in order to pave publicly-owned roads. Homeowners are already paying property taxes which in my view should be used for those improvements in the first place.
Logan County Commissioners are expected to go over the county budget within the next few weeks and I believe it is morally imperative for them to honor their resolution and take action to direct much of the new growth revenue toward a road improvement fund. If they have any doubt about the right thing to do, they should ask taxpayers if they believe this new growth revenue should be used to fix roads. I have a feeling the response would be a resounding, “YES.”
In upcoming years, if the county continues to apply this concept and follow their resolution, it will have a compounding effect and the overall percentage of your property tax going to roads will dramatically increase. This will help the government maintain your roads without increasing your taxes.
The alternative to this approach would be to spend the money on new hiring, substantial pay increases and expanding county government’s real property footprint (i.e. building new or expanding already owned government buildings.) I suspect few taxpayers have an appetite for this. But just to make sure, I will include these options as part of this week’s email survey to House District 31 residents.
I will keep you informed.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond.
He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.