By TERRY GROOVER
Canadian County’s proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is more than $5 million higher than the just completed fiscal year.
The proposed general fund budget is $30,894,720.49. That is an increase of $5,544,365.89.
District 2 County Commissioner David Anderson said the increase is a combination of the county’s improving finances and proposals to begin spending money for capital improvement projects, such as the county’s new fairgrounds complex.
“It is some numbers that are our best estimate right now,” said Anderson.
A large portion of the increase is the result of higher valuation of property, especially related to utilities, such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s new turbines near Lake Overholser, as well as wind turbines located near El Reno.
However, a portion of the revenues incorporates money, such as $2.7 million that was set aside for the fairgrounds, that was not spent last year.
“It is money that will go forward into next year’s (2020) budget,” Anderson said.
It is anticipated that those funds will be used at some point over the coming year, which will reduce the amount available in the 2021 fiscal year budget.
“It is because we are spending money that we have budgeted from prior years,” he said.
The county took out a loan to purchase the property that will be used for the fairgrounds. However, that is not included in the budget. The funds that are included are those related to the construction of the facility.
The $2.7 million that had been set aside is being increased by an additional $1.2 million.
Those are 60 percent of the use tax funds collected the previous year by the county.
A use tax, which is equal to the county’s sales tax, is collected on items that are purchased either online or outside of the county for use in the county.
“We don’t appropriate it until the end of the fiscal year,” Anderson said.
According to the budget, the county expects to have $15.2 million in revenue from 2020 property taxes, about $2 million in 2020 miscellaneous funds, an additional $1.5 million in 2019 property tax, $774,000 in additional 2019 miscellaneous funds and $2.1 million in use tax funds from 2019.
In addition, officials estimate total new revenue at $21,810,773.64. The county also expects to carry over about $9 million.
Most departments had budgets that were static, although a couple did see significant increases.
The use tax budget is up more than 55 percent from previous years. Anderson pointed out that is because money from previous year had not been spent. He said those funds would be expended this year as the fairgrounds project moves forward.
The use tax budget is $5.4 million.
Also jumping significantly is the county audit, which is budgeted at $406,579. That is an increase of 54 percent.
The visual inspection department’s budget will increase by $208,639 when compared to last year. That is a 21.74 percent increase.
The general government budget also jumped by $2,295,761. Anderson pointed out that much of that increase includes $1.1 million that is being put into a capital improvement reserve funds account, while $1.8 million is being set aside for current improvement projects.
The reserve fund, he said, would likely be used for the construction of a new courthouse in the future.
“We currently have over $2 million budget for future capital improvements,” he said. “We don’t have immediate plans to build a new courthouse, but when we do get to that point, we want to have been saving and setting aside money each year.”
The current courthouse was constructed in the 1980s and is considered too small to handle the current caseload.
That building now houses five courtrooms, the offices for all judges with the exception of Associate Judge Bob Hughey, the court clerk’s office, the district attorney’s office and several mediation offices.
The county also has separate buildings for the sheriff’s office, which also leases two other locations; the election board, the county assessor’s office and the administration building.
The administration building houses the county clerk, treasurer, emergency management, human resources, payroll, permits, county schools and county commissioners.
The budget does have a proposed surplus of about $797,000.
Anderson said there has not been a discussion about employee pay raises. Those are likely to come at the budget panel’s next meeting when all of the numbers are finalized.
Anderson said any raises would occur in January based on a new state law.
He also pointed out that the county might consider increasing the employees’ benefit allowances.
“We won’t look just at raises, the cost of insurance, the county match and their own retirement plan. Then, we will see where we are at,” Anderson said.