Tulsa County: February 2013 Archives

While putting together the previous entry, I came across a spreadsheet of newly-filed legislation for the 54th Oklahoma Legislature (on the home page of thehouseandsenate.com), and found yet another reform worthy of notice and support.

State Representative David Brumbaugh, a Broken Arrow Republican, has filed legislation to increase county budget transparency and accountability, requiring the annual budget process to include all county revenues and previous year surpluses, not just those subject to appropriation, which is typically limited to the current year's ad valorem revenues. The bill is HB 1986.

In order to gain an accurate picture of all revenues at the disposal of county elected officials and agencies, HB 1986 would give the county excise board the authority and obligation to develop independent estimates of fund revenues and balances "for any fund of any department or elected office within the county." The bill also expressly gives the excise board the duty to "act in an oversight capacity with respect to the county budget" and authorizes the excise board to hire personnel needed to carry out these responsibilities.

County government in Oklahoma is one-size-fits-all. All 77 counties have the same set of eight independently elected and autonomous officials that together constitute the budget board: three county commissioners, county clerk, county sheriff, county treasurer, county assessor, and county court clerk.

Under current law, it is possible for each county official to hoard surplus funds, which are not subject to budget board appropriation. The eight officials might decide to turn a mutual blind eye to one another's surpluses and to appropriate new revenues without regard to cash already on hand. HB 1986 would end any such cozy arrangement by bringing an independent check and oversight to bear on the county budget process and would ensure that all county funds are accounted for at least once a year.

My only suggestion for improvement is to add language that explicitly includes funds held by county trusts, authorities, boards, and commissions, such as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (which oversees Vision 2025 funds, 4 to Fix the County funds, and conduit funds loaned to private institutions), the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, the Tulsa City-County Library Commission, and the Tulsa City-County Health Department.

Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry announced today that he will resign effective July 8, 2013, about 18 months before the expiration of his second term as a commissioner. (Read the press release at TheOkie.com.) The announcement comes three months after Perry, age 72, underwent a heart procedure; Perry cited "health reasons" as the motivation for stepping down.

Perry's political career will end as it began, with a mid-term resignation. In January 1994, Perry won a three-way, all-GOP special election to fill the House District 69 created by the resignation of David Smith. Perry was term-limited in the legislature in 2006, when he ran for the County Commission District 3 after incumbent Bob Dick announced his decision not to seek re-election. Perry advanced to a runoff in a crowded Republican primary, then defeated Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen in the runoff to win the election, as no Democrat filed for the office.

Perry, who was elected to the County Commission with the support of grassroots conservative volunteers, disappointed many of his backers by voting to advance the 2007 county sales tax for river projects and the 2012 Vision2 county sales tax. Both measures were turned down by voters.

Fred Perry and I have often been at odds during his time as County Commissioner, particularly concerning the sales tax propositions he supported and disputes between the county and the City of Tulsa (e.g. annexation of the Fairgrounds and the jail agreement). To his credit, he never hesitated to make his case in writing, whether in the comments here at BatesLine or in the pages of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

During his time in office, a number of improvements have been made to the Tulsa County website. Early in his term, as chairman of the county commission, Perry arranged to distribute ex officio board memberships among all the commissioners, rather than putting the full burden on the person holding the chairmanship, which by tradition rotates annually among the three commissioners.

In his resignation press release, Perry has proposed that the special election to replace him could be held at the same time as Tulsa's mayoral election, with the special primary at the same time as the city's primary on June 11 and the general election at the same time as the city runoff (if needed) on August 13. The special county commission primary could have an impact on the non-partisan mayor's race, driving up Republican turnout in south Tulsa, Bill Christiansen's home turf.

(The latest set of city election dates is so new -- it was approved in June 2012 -- it has yet to be incorporated into the online version of the Tulsa City Charter. Here is the markup version, showing the changes approved in June 2012.)

Here's wishing Fred Perry a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa County category from February 2013.

Tulsa County: October 2012 is the previous archive.

Tulsa County: March 2013 is the next archive.

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