By Conrad Dudderar
A new funding formula passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law will reduce the amount Canadian County receives for road and bridge work, county officials say.
Canadian County is due about $327,000 in County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) funds, according to estimates provided by the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma (ACCO).
The funding formula – which especially benefits rural counties with more bad bridges – is not equitable, according to District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader.
County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart agreed, noting the new formula “does not favor Canadian County.”
The state’s CIRB program – created in 2006 by House Bill 1176 – helps fund major road and bridge projects that counties could not afford on their own.
Managed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the CIRB program is capped at $120 million per fiscal year. This annual allotment consists of state apportionments from the Motor Vehicle Collection Tax.
Some 25% of CIRB funds – or $30 million annually – is distributed for maintenance and operation in Oklahoma’s 77 counties.
But each county does not receive 1/77th of the pie.
The newly revised funding formula provides CIRB funds to counties based on three factors – Total area (square miles), county road miles and number of obsolete/deficient bridges.
“All three of these factors favor rural counties,” Commissioner Hader said.
Counties like Canadian that address their damaged bridges are being punished under this funding formula, Hader argued.
“We, as a county, have done a pretty good job replacing bridges,” he said.
“There’s a lot of counties not happy with how this shook out.”
Hader’s wife, District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont), voted against the legislation revising the funding formula.
QUITE A DISPARITY
There is significant disparity in the amount of CIRB funds counties are expected to receive, Commissioner Hader noted.
Osage County – a large county with many poor bridges that should be replaced – will get an estimated $939,000.
The lowest, Murray County, is due to receive around $118,000.
In a related item, Canadian County’s maintenance and operation (“m and o”) monies are down 17.5% from the previous year.
“We’re the fourth worst county in that regard,” Hader said.
This revenue decline is due primarily to a drop in gross production taxes, Chairman Stewart quickly added.
There are about 85,000 county highway system road miles and some 15,000 of state highway miles in Oklahoma.
While acknowledging state highways are more heavily traveled than county roads, Stewart said: “We have more miles, and we have to take care of them – no matter what.”
CIRB funds and “m and o” monies are both important to Canadian County, Hader added.
“We need some more of both,” the District 1 commissioner said.