The Edmond Sun

Opinion

March 10, 2014

County budget issue drives away road improvements

GUTHRIE — I am interested in working with other local officials to present a town hall meeting about the earthquakes that have been torturing area residents during the past few weeks. The forum would allow local residents to ask questions of the energy sector and state geological professionals. Would you have an interest in attending an event like this? If so, please let me know. If there is enough interest, I plan to help coordinate the effort.

Readers may wonder about the delay in my promised follow-up to last June’s article titled, “I Pay Property Taxes … Please Fix My Road.” In that article I spoke of the importance for Logan County officials to keep their 2009 commitment to use part of the ever-increasing collection of property tax revenues to fix roads. The 2009 resolution approved by Logan County Commissioners assured us of the county’s eventual intent to fix roads with some of the new income resulting from the many new homes being built. I felt that the time had come for the county to deliver on this promise, and the increased collections in tax year 2013 provided the perfect opportunity.

As the budget process was being deliberated, it became clear this would not happen. It was discovered that the county appeared to have been operating according to an unbalanced budget during the past two or so years. A county official described the situation as a “1.3 million dollar budget mistake.” The county had simply been paying out too much money.

To address the problem, they could either cut costs, or balance the budget by dipping into the Guthrie hospital sale fund. They took about $700,000 out of the fund. Needless to say, this meant they were not able to set aside revenues for road funding. So, even though the county is collecting more property tax revenue than ever before, the promise of the 2009 resolution seems just as far away as ever.

State auditors recently have been auditing the county budget and I am waiting for their audit report to be released before I publish my promised update. It is my hope that the audit will give more detail as to the specifics of this budget issue.

Modernization legislation was approved a few years ago to place audits online. Everyone will be able to see the audit once it is posted and I will be happy to provide the link.

Prior to this year’s legislative session, I also wrote a series of articles about the attempt to stop the wasteful public construction contracting practice known as sole sourcing. I wrote those articles in part because I believed those who benefit from this practice would attempt to reverse the reform once the session got started and I wanted to go on the offensive and get the word out ahead of their effort. Sadly, I was proven correct; even as this article goes to press, the reversal is currently being driven through the Legislature in the form of Senate Bill 1719,

You may remember that those lobbyists attempted to pass the reversal by chucking another bill late in the session last year. It was stopped in part because the House Calendar Committee wasn’t likely to schedule it on the floor since it was clearly out of order.

That committee no longer exists as it was unexpectedly eliminated a few days ago. This was the first reversal of a major legislative reform that I can recall in my time in the Legislature. At some point in the future, I plan to write about the steps that led to the creation of this committee and its sudden death.

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 jason.murphey@okhouse.gov.

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Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
Undecided
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