County budget to fund raises, future construction

Preliminary estimate $31.7M, including carryover

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By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

EL RENO – A cost-of-living raise for employees and future building expansion projects are among items expected to be funded through an estimated $31.7 million annual Canadian County budget.

Members of the Canadian County excise board, Canadian County officers and department heads attended a fiscal year 2021 general fund budget conference on June 23 inside the county administration building, 201 N Choctaw.

“The preliminary estimate of revenue is $31,715,838,” Canadian County Clerk Sherry Murray said. “The initial budget surplus to be balanced is $2,929,498. No action was necessary at this time.”

The estimated grand total, for 19 Canadian County departments, is $28,795,340 – a 5.68% increase from FY20.

The newly proposed Canadian County general fund budget includes significant “carryover” dollars from recent years that have been set aside to help finance future construction projects.

“We know the administration office building and our judicial building are a little dated and ‘bursting at the seams’ as we grow marginally to meet the growing needs of our growing county,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Marc Hader said.

“We’ll probably eventually build a new administration building and we’re probably going to add onto the judicial building.”

The proposed General Government budget shows a large increase over FY20 – including $1 million more (to $3,886,359) for capital improvement projects and $261,090 more (to $796,090) for building repairs.

“We all agreed to probably give cost-of-living type raises with any excess,” Chairman Hader said.

These pay raises – expected to be between 3% and 4% – will be almost entirely across-the-board for Canadian County’s 375-400 government employees. The raise was 3% last year.

Plans call for a benefits’ increase for county workers who decide to invest in a retirement savings plan.

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COUNTY’S ‘STABLE’ FUNDING STREAM

Property tax revenues fuel Canadian County government general fund operations.

“We are blessed that, for a funding stream, ad valorem is probably the most stable,” Hader said. “Even though we’re in a little bit of a downturn economically and businesses are shuddering their doors, there’s not be a large drop-off in valuation of property.

“We’re still the fastest-growing county and people are still moving here and building.”

Canadian County’s FY21 estimate of needs is “theoretical … a best guess, at this point” at the start of the county budget cycle, according to the District 1 county commissioner.

“We won’t know until August when the county equalization board and assessor tell us our actual ad valorem number we have to work with,” he said. “We don’t finalize the fiscal year budget (that starts July 1) until October or November. We’re operating on this theoretical 50% of (funds spent) the previous year.”

County officials don’t expect significant changes between the current budget estimates and what will be formally approved this fall.

The FY21 estimate of needs shows budgeted funds for each county department, as compared to the FY20 budget (see chart).

Largest projected percentage increases are for the Charity, County Free Fair, OSU Extension, General Government, Court Clerk, and County Sheriff accounts.

The only account showing a decrease in the FY21 estimate of needs is the County Jail.

The largest department is General Government, which comprises 39.12% of the total budget; followed by the County Sheriff (18.65%), County Jail (11.18%), Court Clerk (5.75%), County Clerk (4.6%), Visual Inspection (4.16%), and County Assessor (4.03%).
Chairman Hader explained the large percentage FY21 budget increases estimated for the OSU Extension and County Free Fair departments.

This is due largely to a decrease in state higher education funding for the county’s OSU Extension Office and the need to have enough maintenance and operation funds when a new county fairgrounds’ complex opens (expected in August ‘21).

Canadian County’s elected officers are “pretty frugal” and operate much like a budget board, according to Hader.

“We all participate, take everybody’s input and make decisions largely together,” he said.

“Collectively, we have a good group of county officers who are fiscally restrained and responsible, and good stewards for the taxpayers.”