The Oklahoma Association of Regional Councils (OARC) will host their 2018 Legislative Reception today, Tuesday, March 27, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Faculty House, 601 NE 14th Street, Oklahoma City. All Oklahoma legislators are invited to attend to meet with the executive directors of the 11 councils of governments across Oklahoma. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) will be represented by John M. Sharp, Acting Executive Director.
OARC’s 2018 Legislative Priorities
Many people choose to live in rural Oklahoma because of the rich history and traditional
culture. Rural areas face challenges in providing jobs, adequate infrastructure and public
safety. Programs that help rural Oklahoma include:
- Rural Economic Action Program. Funding is limited to areas no greater than 7,000 in population. Grant funds are used for small, cost effective projects such as roads, water and sewer infrastructure, and emergency storm sirens. Funding for REAP has declined by 41 percent since 2010.
- Rural Fire Protection. Funds provide equipment and operational expenses for volunteer and small town fi re departments which respond to grassland and structure fires. Continuing the Rural Fire Program through the COGs under the oversight of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is essential to rural fire protection. Funding for this program has dropped 30 percent since 2009.
- Rural Transit. Funding through the Public Transit Revolving Fund provides transit equipment and services for rural Oklahoma to travel to work or healthcare facilities.
- State Appropriated Funds to COGs. Funding provided through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce is used as matching funds to leverage other state and federal grant programs. A reduction in the appropriate funds has a ripple effect on infrastructure, public safety and economic development programs for Oklahoma. Funding has dropped 65 percent since 2007.
- Defend economic incentive tools that help grow the local economy. Local communities are the economic engines of the state. Proven tools with substantial return on investment, such as tax incentive and increment districts, historic tax credits and quality job tax credits are essential tools that allow local governments to recruit new businesses and to expand existing ones. The State created an Incentive Review Commission to review tax credit and incentive programs. We support the periodic review of programs. We strongly urge continuation of ODOT Industrial Access Road Program, which is currently under review. The program has a proven track record of improving public roadways and allowing employees to get to work at new and expanding industries.
- Encourage multi-jurisdictional cooperation. Laws that limit a county’s ability to provide services within a municipality, or that hamper cities from working with each other, prevent government effi ciency. Statutes that allow cooperation should not be capped by population limits or other restrictions that prevent inter-governmental cooperation.
- Maintain support for Oklahoma’s aging citizenry. Home and community-based services help older adults age at home, not in a more expensive institutional setting. Oklahoma Older Americans Act (OAA) matching funds are an investment that leverages resources for the benefi t of Oklahoma taxpayers.
- Aging program flexibility. State funds from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services are used to match federal funds for nutrition, transportation, in-home services and caregiver assistance. More fl exibility is needed to allow Area Agencies on Aging to target available resources to the highest needs based on regional priorities. State funding cannot be targeted exclusively to the nutrition programs without jeopardizing federal funding for other mandated aging programs.
- Aging funding transparency. The Aging Services Division of the Department of Human Services is the funding vehicle for distributing state and federal aging program resources through Oklahoma’s eleven Area Agencies on Aging. The Oklahoma Administrative Code provides that DHS-ASD shall develop and publish the intrastate funding formula and provide opportunity for review and comment by the public. The assumptions, data and formulas for the intrastate allocation of funds have not been made readily available nor have meaningful opportunities to comment been provided to either the agencies on aging or the public.
- Community Expansion of Nutrition Assistance. CENA provides community infrastructure support for senior citizens centers, including raw food, equipment purchases, and building improvements. Continued state funding through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce provides a vital connection for senior citizens to their communities, especially in rural Oklahoma. CENA funds have been cut by 36 percent since FY 2007.
Rural Economic Action Program (REAP)
REAP funding assists rural areas with less than 7,000 population with economic and community Development needs. REAP funding is divided by statutory formula among the 11 COGs. The nine rural COGs each receives 10% of the funding and the two metropolitan COG’s (ACOG and INCOG) each receive 5% of the funding for their qualifying rural areas. State funding in FY2010 was $15,500,000, funding has declined by 41 percent to $9,187,600 in the last six years. REAP funding is a line item appropriation in the state budget passed through Oklahoma Department of Commerce. REAP funds can only be spent on categories of project specifically enumerated in statute.
Local projects must be approved by the COG board which is comprised of local policy officials. Projects are funded on a reimbursement basis, with monitoring and oversight by COGs and ODOC.
Rural Fire Defense Program
State funding assists the COGs to employ a rural fi re coordinator who assists local fire department in training, grant writing, reporting of equipment inventory, and assigning surplus equipment. Coordinators annually certify approximately 800 departments to be eligible for state funding for operations. In addition, the coordinators help establish new departments to fi ll gaps in coverage, and assist departments in maintaining or improving Insurance Service Organization (ISO) ratings. In FY 2009, the state funding to the COGs was $863,640. The budget
for FY 2018 is $600,510. This refl ects a 30 percent in the program. This funding is contracted through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. In the ACOG area, ODAFF operates the program directly.
State Appropriated Sub-State Planning Funds
A state appropriation to the COGs was created to assist with the required match to federal programs such as Economic Development Administration (EDA) and Title III Older Americans
Act programs. Funding in FY 2007 was $550,000 and in FY 2018 is $190,531. In the last ten years, funding has been reduced by nearly $360,000 or 65 percent in this program. This funding is passed through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Capital Improvement Planning (CIP)
The CIP program was created by the Legislature to help local jurisdictions identify current and future infrastructure needs which will require capital investment. COG staff assists local jurisdiction with the development of Capital Improvement Plans. Funding in FY 2007 was $937,860, and in FY 2018 funding is $399,850, a drop of 57 percent. CDBG funding for CIP is available through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Prior to FY 2011, a state appropriation of approximately $500,000 per year for CIPs was also available.
Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) are funded through the federal Title III Older Americans Act, state and local funds. The state portion fl ows through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Aging Services Division. Eight of the eleven COGs operate Area Agency on Aging programs. In the Oklahoma City and Enid areas, the program is administered by local non-profit organizations. These funds are used to provide information and assistance programs; nutrition centers, education, and counseling; outreach; transportation; caregiver respite; health promotion; home repair; chore services; legal services; and Lon-Term Ombudsman services for seniors 60 years old and older. In FY 2007 the state budget for the COG’s Area Agencies on Aging was $13,556,383. The budget for FY 2018 is $8,425,519. This reflects a 38 percent cut in this program.
Community Expansion for Nutritional Assistance (CENA)
CENA funding is used for independent senior centers that meet on a regularly basis and host activities for the seniors. For the most part, these centers are operated by volunteers.
The centers can be open from one to fi ve days per week to provide meals and activities for seniors. This small amount of funding can be used to reimburse food cost, utilities, insurance, building maintenance, and other expenses. In FY 2007 state funding was $2,850,000. By FY 2017 it had dropped to $1,820,010, a 36 percent reduction. This funding is passed through the
Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
About OARC’s Mission
Incorporated in January 1992, the mission of OARC is to advance regional issues and to advocate for regionalism and the Councils of Government (COGs) to the public and private sector.
- Assist the COGs in strengthening their capabilities to serve their local government members
- Provide a forum for the regular exchange of information and ideas among the COGs and their member local governments
- Educate other governmental entities, public and private organizations and the general public about services rendered by the Councils
- Represent the Councils and member local governments before agencies of the legislative and executive branches of both the state and national governments
For more information, contact Sharp, (405) 234-2264.