Rogers County, Okla., Bolsters IT Funding in Budget

In total, $46,000 was cut from previously reported struggling departments in the county to fund the salary of a second employee in IT and to fulfill a computer contract through the county clerk’s office.

by Kayleigh J.T. Harrison, Claremore Daily Progress / October 21, 2019

(TNS) — The one-man show operating information technology across county government will get a second this year, following approval of the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget.

In order to make that happen, the Rogers County, Okla., Excise Board made tough cuts Friday morning when they met for a third time to discuss the budget.

In total, $46,000 was cut from previously reported struggling departments to fund the salary of a second employee in IT and to fulfill a computer contract through the county clerk’s office.

“What has, to both of our minds, become a priority is funding IT, and securing the funds to have another IT person,” said Excise Board Member Brandi Payne.

“Coming from the private sector, it is eye opening to think you have one person in your IT department,” said Excise Board Member Leslie Browand. “If something happens to him on his way into work, what do you all do? If he were to be out of commission for a couple of months, you all would be left crippled with no one to support you on the IT piece.”

Speaking directly to IT Director Brett Williston, Browand said, “I cringe that you’ve not been able to have a vacation uninterrupted or be able to be sick.”

The Planning Commission was cut by $5,000 from capital outlay, the Sheriff’s Department was cut by $10,000 from travel for deputy training, the Emergency Management Office was cut by $5,000 from capital outlay, county-wide building improvements were cut by $20,000, the County Clerk Office was cut by $1,500 for capital outlay and the Board of County Commissioners was cut $3,000 from capital outlay and $1,500 from maintenance and operations.

Some, but not all, of the cuts were voluntarily offered up by the department heads.

“This is old school Rogers County, thank you,” IT Director Brett Williston said. “I know people look at me as a bitter old man sometimes, but my heart is honestly warmed right now.”

These cuts came in addition to cuts initially made by the Board of County Commissioners to each department’s estimate of needs.

Sensing the tension in the room at cutting already tight budgets, Browand said, “We are truly not trying to pick on anybody. I know it totally does feel that way, and I see everybody looking at us like we’ve got horns on our head. We’re just simply asking for a little bit of adjustment, because the truth is that money is going to be well spent for your own departments.”

The Excise Board expressed concern over the fact that the estimate of needs presented by the county departments did not give clear line items detailing their needs.

Planning Commission Director Missy Richardson said, “It would be very good practice for the entire county to have a system when they put a budget together that they supply spread sheets with line items in order to give to you guys and the commissioners and not be blindsided.”

The board assured county department heads that a new system for documenting needs would be put in place before budget discussions next year in order to smooth the budget process.

The board also announced a plan to review all the contracts related to copy, fax and scanner machines to ensure department heads are making smart decisions when it comes to purchasing those high-cost office supplies.

With the second round of cuts, the approved $12.76 million county budget is approximately $363,000 below the estimate of needs. While the budget is an increase over last year, it is still a $7.7 million decrease from three years ago.

©2019 the Claremore Daily Progress (Claremore, Okla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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