WEATHERFORD — Parker County commissioners Monday reached a stalemate on road and bridge allocation, which means the topic will be brought back again as the court tries to agree on a funding method.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden Monday called a previous vote on the equal distribution of the road and bridge fund balance to each precinct "arbitrary and capricious," again citing a lawsuit from Van Zandt County from 1937, which alleges that equal distribution among precincts is unlawful.
The case was brought up at last month's commissioners court meeting, during which commissioners split a 2-2 vote on dividing the funds using the formula they had previously used, based on office and overhead of 40 percent, road mileage 40 percent and tax revenue 20 percent. Parker County Judge Pat Deen abstained.
County auditor Brianna Fowler Monday said she had researched the transportation code, under which there should be a consideration of what that taxable value is coming from each precinct included in the allocation.
"Some counties do not have a road and bridge tax, and they just follow some of the court cases for how the allocation is, but we do have a specific tax related to road and bridge, and this is what I can find in the transportation code that does cover that," she said.
County Attorney John Forrest said there's no statewide formula, and that each county is a little bit different.
"What you do look at is tax base, road mileage, condition, topography, age of the road equipment, square miles in each precinct, traffic patterns and the presence of municipalities," he said. "It can't be a 25 percent, because then it's a voidable division of the funds for that particular use of those monies."
Walden made a motion to divide the allocation on the formula the county had used for the last "20 plus years ... And that would be legal."
"And that's the most unfair process to use," Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said, with Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan adding it was still "just pulling numbers out of the air."
Dugan made reference to an attorney general opinion on the case in 1998, which Deen said pointed out there needed to be discussion to address traffic and other things, and that commissioners couldn't just arbitrarily set a rate evenly split four ways.
Dugan said they don't have conditions of the roads.
"In lieu of that, what we have previously done is use a fixed cost figure equally distributing 40 percent of the road and bridge revenue to each precinct," Walden said.
He conceded that dividing funds just based on road mileage wasn't fair either, "but the amount of money per mile of road — the discrepancy in that almost double from one precinct to the other — is not fair either."
Deen, acting as a moderator, said he didn't want to curb the debate, adding that there was a motion and a second on the table and a discussion that "will go on until the cows come home, I'm certain of that."
He proposed bringing the item back for a future meeting as its own agenda item.
Commissioners Monday also:
• Approved a budget item and 19 polling sites for a special for May 2022.
• Held a public hearing on the proposed tax rate of .32962 per $100 valuation, during which only one resident spoke, thanking the county for "hanging in" on the no-new-revenue rate.
• Approved the waiving of a job posting for an animal control position with the sheriff's office.
• Heard from several Parker County 4H members on what the program has meant to them, followed by a proclamation of Oct. 3-9, 2021 as 4H Week in Parker County.
• Proclaimed Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week in Parker County.
• Heard an update from Chris Bosco, of Freese and Nichols, on the East Annex project.
• Discussed the approach to development of a county road plan.
• Heard from Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes on the COVID-19 situation and testing dates and times.
• Authorized Deen to sign an interlocal agreement between the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District and the county for local addressing and GIS services.
• Approved the use of the downtown square by the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce for Christmas on the Square in December.