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June 20, 2014

CareerTech earmarks funds for truck driving, oil work

NORMAN — A shortage of truck drivers and oil field workers in Oklahoma led state career education officials Thursday to set aside millions of dollars to train workers in those professions.

While the money — $5.7 million for truck driver training and $1.1 million for oil field training — remained steady from last year, both programs were deemed critical enough that funds were earmarked for them in the $171.9 million CareerTech budget.

The Board of Career and Technology Education approved the budget Thursday.

“The need is still there, but we haven’t had the dollars there in Oklahoma to grow them (the programs),” said Jim Aulgur, chief financial officer of CareerTech.

CareerTech’s spending is program-based, unlike budgets for K-12 education that are more formula-driven, said CareerTech Director Robert Sommers.

Hired in April 2013, Sommers said this year’s budget is more transparent than in years past to give taxpayers a better sense of how money is spent and to set expectations for CareerTech programs.

Sommers, who also serves as Gov. Mary Fallin’s secretary of education and workforce development, said challenges to this year’s budget included healthcare costs that continue to “consume more and more dollars,” required payments into the teacher’s retirement fund, as well as decreasing the program’s reliance on unspent funds from the year before. He said CareerTech eliminated two of eight vacant positions to help the budget balance.

The Legislature kept CareerTech’s $138.9 million in funding from the state flat this year, except for a transfer of $750,000 from the Education Department that will allow it to take over adult general education programs.

CareerTech also receives $26.5 million from the federal government.

Board member Leo Baxter, of Lawton, questioned CareerTech’s $1.3 million marketing and customer relations budget during Thursday’s meeting. Baxter said he would like a better accounting of how that money is spent and wants to know how the marketing program is paying off.

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