Stillwater News Press

Government

May 7, 2012

Veteran Payne County commissioners vote to change road fund distribution despite new commissioner's request for time to study the issue

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County Commission voted 2-1 to give Commissioner Jim Arthur’s road district a bigger cut of the future sales tax revenue over the objection of Commissioner Zach Cavett who first learned of the plan at Monday’s meeting.

Payne County is divided by population into three districts. Commissioner Gloria Hesser’s District 2 is within Stillwater city limits and does not maintain any roads. District 1 in the east and District 3 in the west are responsible for county roads.

The county must redraw its district lines after the U.S. Census count every 10 years to make each district within 5 percent of the others in population. The last redistricting was approved in August, and Arthur’s district surrounds much of Stillwater. Arthur said that while the population is roughly equal, the road use is not, largely because of rapid growth southwest of the city.

“It’s important we do more work in this area,” he said. “Probably in the past five years there’s been about half a dozen housing developments go in.”

Additionally, two retirement developments are in the works in that area as well, Hesser said. The sales tax revenue has been split 50/50 between the two road districts — represented by Arthur and Cavett — and Hesser and Arthur said they wanted to see that change to a 65/35 split in favor of Arthur’s district.

“We visited with other counties and rarely do they divide it equally,” Hesser said.

Arthur and Hesser said they had researched the matter and consulted the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, but Cavett, whose first commission meeting since being elected this spring was April 16, said he was not notified of the plan before Monday.

“I would just like a little time to research this a little and get ahold of some other counties,” he said.

Hesser responded that she and Arthur had already done that.

Cavett made a motion to table the measure, but he did not receive a second, meaning it died without a vote. Commissioners then voted 2-1 to approve the motion to redistribute the sales tax between the road districts.

After the meeting, Hesser said the measure had been considered back when District 1 Commissioner Bill Deering was in office, but she and Arthur chose to wait when Deering was battling cancer. When asked why she didn’t honor Cavett’s request to table the measure, Hesser said she couldn’t answer that other than to say changing the sales tax split has been considered for a while. Arthur was not immediately available for follow-up comment.

“It would have sure been nice to have an opportunity to table it, so I could get the figures and the miles that each district has to maintain,” Cavett said after the meeting.

He also said he would gather statistics on where sales tax is generated, the miles of roads to maintain and the road usage to present at an upcoming meeting. Monday’s meeting was Cavett’s third on the commission.

“I don’t mind it being a fair split, but it seems as though they pulled those percentages out of thin air,” Cavett said. “I am about being fair, I just don’t feel like those percentages (are) fair.”

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