By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County employees are due to receive a 5% raise in 2023.
The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase has been proposed as part of Canadian County’s fiscal year 2023 general fund budget.
Canadian County Commissioners and the Canadian County Excise Board on Aug. 23 unanimously approved a balanced FY23 estimate of needs totaling $35,145,017.
County Clerk Sherry Murray was directed to forward the document to the budget maker for completion.
Canadian County’s proposed general fund budget is 3.85% more than FY22.
County commissioners and excise board members met with county department directors this week for their second FY23 general fund budget conference.
Canadian County government officials have been able to balance their department budgets to provide an across-the-board 5% COLA increase, which has been proposed instead of merit raises.
Some 360 Canadian County employees are due to receive the COLA increase starting Jan. 1, 2023, according to Murray.
Canadian County Excise Board Member Karl Mengers thanked county officers and department directors for their efforts crafting the FY23 budget.
“I like that everybody is very fiscally conservative when it comes to the budget,” Mengers said.
That’s why Canadian County has so much in its reserve fund, County Sheriff Chris West replied.
“It’s a group effort,” West said.
10% IN RESERVE
Canadian County’s general government reserve fund has increased to $3,555,656 – some 10% of the proposed FY23 general fund budget total.
“We’ve always tried to be around that 10% in our reserves,” Chairman Anderson said.
District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart added, “It’s taken years to build up to get to that point.”
Canadian County’s general fund reserves have increased from $3 million in FY22 due to higher net property valuations and other changes to the estimate of needs since the first FY23 budget hearing June 28.
Canadian County’s net valuations are $1,937,123,319 after $1.8 billion was initially estimated.
The proposed County Audit account is down 33.99% – from $605,932 to $400,000.
Funds accumulate in this budgeted account based on gross revenue collections to cover the cost of performing county audits, Chairman Anderson explained.
“We have asked for a release of those funds to reduce that budgeted number to $400,000,” he said. “We’ve never spent $400,000 in our audit processes. That (reduction) released $277,000 back into our available revenue for our cost-of-living raises this year.”
Property and liability insurance for county-owned buildings in FY23 will be $331,626, up from $254,121.
This increase is largely due to the county’s recent purchase of the former Halliburton building near SH-66 and Evans Road, which will be remodeled for the Canadian County Health Department.
Meanwhile, a $230,000 increase for capital outlay in the General Government account will help pay for the County Assessor’s new Computer Aided Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system.
“That is a one-time purchase,” Anderson noted.
Canadian County Assessor Matt Wehmuller will add $100,000 from his department’s “cash” fund to cover the cost, providing that much more revenue to fund employee raises.
In addition, county workers’ compensation costs total $198,724, down from $212,048 in FY22.
Canadian County’s FY23 general fund budget covers 20 departments.
The largest accounts are General Government (39.25% of total budget), County Sheriff (18.49%), County Sheriff-Jail (11.55%), Court Clerk (5.28%), and County Clerk (4.12%)
The proposed Expo Center budget is 35.84% more than FY22, although this was due largely to a transfer of personnel and operational costs from the County Free Fair budget (down 35.36%).
Other double-digit percent increases are proposed in the County Sheriff budget (13.79%) and Visual Inspection budget (11.01%).
Canadian County’s $35 million general fund budget has about tripled since County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson was first elected to office in 2009.
“When we decide to build our new courthouse, you’re going to see our budget actually go down,” said Anderson, the District 2 commissioner. “Because we are carrying over, year after year after year, money that we’ve set aside and saved for that purpose.
“So, when we spend that money, then our budget won’t carry that forward. Our budget will go down. Our revenue that is new every year won’t.”
Canadian County officials plan to develop a new, larger courthouse complex in El Reno due to the county’s rapid growth.
“We have identified $10 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money to use to build a courthouse,” said Anderson, referring to the federal COVID-19 stimulus package.
Some $7.8 million also has been set aside in the Canadian County budget toward the courthouse expansion project.
Canadian County’s proposed FY23 general fund budget does not contain any federal stimulus funds, specifically the $28.8 million in ARPA funds awarded to the county for COVID-19 pandemic relief.