Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 20, 2014

Miles ahead with county tax funds

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Garvin County’s three commissioners believe the county is miles ahead of where it would have been without the help of a sales tax in place since 2007.

Voters will decide whether or not to renew that same half cent countywide tax for another seven years when an election rolls around March 4.

During the life of the tax it’s generated nearly $10 million with a quarter of it going to both the commissioners for county roads and the sheriff’s office and county jail. The remainder has been used to make a variety of upgrades to the county courthouse.

With this new tax proposal a quarter is again earmarked for the commissioners and their efforts to maintain county roads — that is if voters pass it a second time.

All three commissioners want voters to know how important those tax revenues have been to them.

“Let’s keep moving forward and not take any steps back,” said District 2 Commissioner Shon Richardson.

“There’s roads out there that wouldn’t have been done without this sales tax,” he said.

“Sure it’s helped us with fuel, but it’s accomplished things we couldn’t have done without it.”

The quarter of the tax going to commissioners has been split equally among each of the three districts. That’s generated more than $860,000 for each one.

Although the vast majority of those funds have been used to pay the high costs of fuel, each commissioner says it’s done much more by freeing up the money needed to address other projects, namely ongoing efforts to maintain roads.

“We pretty much use it to buy fuel for our trucks and equipment,” said District 1 Commissioner Stan Spivey, who less than two years ago stepped in to replace the retired Kenneth Holden.

“It’s been mostly used for fuel but it has helped in other areas,” he said.

“If we didn’t have the tax we would have to find other monies to pay for that diesel. There would probably be some projects we wouldn’t be able to do.”

As for those fuel costs, commissioners say it falls into the range of up to $18,000 monthly.

“It’s not just about buying a load of fuel,” District 3 Commissioner Johnny Mann said.

“If we didn’t have it, it would come out of your highway fund,” he said. “We would have to dip into that to buy the diesel we need.

“Not having the tax would take money away from everything.”

One of the things Mann is referring to is the commissioners’ work to help most of the towns in the county with road improvements in those cities.

“It would slow it down,” he said about not having the tax revenues.

“I won’t say anything would go away. We’ll survive. It just wouldn’t be as good as it is now.

“There would be less services if this didn’t pass.”

Richardson is quick to agree.

“This highway money is not filling our pockets,” Richardson said.

“If we didn’t have the sales tax we would be in real trouble. In my opinion it’s vital we pass this sales tax.”

According to Richardson, the total funding is equivalent to 22 miles of rebuilt roads in his district using a stabilizer to strengthen the road base, complete with two layers of chip and seal on the driving surface.

“This is an expensive process but cuts the recurring maintenance costs tremendously,” the District 2 commissioner said.

“Although we have purchased fuel with our portion of the sales tax revenues, this has allowed us to do road projects that otherwise would not have been possible without the tax revenue.

“That’s 22 miles of roads that couldn’t have been done without this tax.”

To rebuild a road with oil and rock and a “chip and seal” repaving commissioners are looking at a cost of up to $40,000 for each mile, Richardson added.

The cost skyrockets up to at least $275,000 a mile if a road is rebuilt completely with asphalt paving.

All agree a sales tax is by far the best way to provide for these additional county monies.

“A sales tax is the fairest way we can do this,” Spivey said.

“With this sales tax we have people come through our county and help pay for these things,” Mann said.

“A sales tax helps all kinds of areas,” he said.

“It does affect every office in this courthouse. It’s helped every office and made the courthouse more efficient.”

Commissioners add the tax funds have also helped provide the matching monies needed for the county to have a chance at acquiring grants to be used on various county projects.