Williams County is going to have to deal with a 40% cut in oil revenue for next year’s budget, one of the County Commissioners said Monday.

David Montgomery, who was re-elected to a fifth term last month, spoke Monday, Dec. 7, to the Williston Rotary Club. He talked about the issues facing the county, including a drop in oil production that has hurt government funding statewide.

Montgomery said the drop in money from the state’s Gross Production Tax will mostly affect money for repairing and improving roads.

The county only budgets about $13 million annual from oil production and uses any extra for road work. In 2020, the county spent about $30 million on road construction and repair.

“I hope the Legislature will at least maintain what we have,” Montgomery said. “We do have a cushion in our reserves. It’s certainly not anything like the Legacy Fund, but it’ll help us moving forward.”

Even with the drop in revenue, though, the county is in decent financial shape, Montgomery said, and that’s because county is entirely debt-free.

“For us that’s huge, because over the past 10 to 15 years we’ve constructed over $100 million in building projects alone,” Montgomery said.

Most of the needs for buildings have been met now, leaving roads as the primary project.

“Roads have always been an issue, is it better now?” state Rep. Patrick Hatlestad asked Montgomery.

He said things have improved, but there are still roads built in the 1930s or 1940s that the county has to work on.

“As you know, it all takes money,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to continue to obviously spend as much as we can to not only maintain but improve them.”

Looking ahead

The U.S. Census wrapped up earlier in the fall and North Dakota will find out the count in the spring, likely in April, Montgomery said.

“Williams County has a reorganization board and once the census numbers are out, the reorganization board will start their process of going together,” he said.

Every 10 years, with the decennial census, the boundaries of the county’s five commission districts must be redrawn. The goal is to make sure the population is approximately equal in each district.

Because of the change in population over the last 10 years, Montgomery said he expects some changes will be needed

“I would tend to believe in 2021 there’s going to be some realignment of the district boundaries,” he said.

The first time the new boundaries will be in play will be 2022 and in 2024, when the District 4 seat is up for election, Montgomery won’t be on the ballot. He said Monday he expects his fifth term to be his final one.

Montgomery has plans for the rest of his term, and he hopes that the county can make progress on behavioral health soon.

Williston and Williams County spend about $1 million each year just transporting people to behavioral health facilities statewide.

“I would really like to see us have some type of facility or agreement out here that would be beneficial for our behavioral health,” Montgomery said.

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