The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 12, 2014

City to slow expenditures

ENID, Okla. — The city of Enid is crafting a budget to match concerns that revenue might not expand significantly through next year.

Chief Financial Officer Jerald Gilbert said that the city probably will have brought in more than $32 million in revenue through the end of the fiscal year. That’s a 1.43 percent increase over the previous year, but city commissioners a year ago budgeted as if they would get an extra 5 percent.

“It’s not looking like we’re going to hit our target for this year,” Gilbert said.

To respond to the shortfall, city staff are slowing down expenditures. City employees will not be affected, Gilbert said.

Enid City Commissioners, meeting for the first of two special budget meetings this week, decided to work with a budget that predicts no increase in revenue over the next 12 months.

“What’s wrong with just budgeting it neutral, and the extra money we get we can figure out how to spend?” said Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser. “What’s the point in gambling with the taxpayers’ dollars in this budget?”

Ward 3’s Ben Ezzell tried to convince his fellow commissioners to work with Gilbert’s initial projection that tax revenue could rise 3 percent. That way, he said, the city can make adjustments throughout the year if revenues don’t meet the expectations.

“I don’t like the feeling of having a slush fund at the end of the year that we’ve got to do something with. We should be using the most accurate projection we can, whether it be positive, negative or flat,” he said.

Ezzell and Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson voted against the flat budget proposal. Wilson said after the meeting she would have supported a 2 percent estimate.

“I have faith in Jerald Gilbert’s predictions, but I also understood where Vanhooser was coming from. I would have been happy with somewhere in the middle,” Wilson said.

The city had three straight months of declining revenue before the most recent figures showed another jump in sales tax payments to the coffers. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the city earned nearly $2.5 million during the month of April, a 4.9-percent increase over the same time last year.

Additional budget discussions will take place today at noon in the City Administration Building. Commissioners likely will tackle local program funding, which is discretionary spending to support nonprofits and other local organizations.

City staff presented a local-programs budget slashed to half of what it was last year. Various programs that received funding last year, like Leonardo’s Summer Arts Program and Youth & Family Services, may not receive funding.

RSVP of Enid and North Central Oklahoma is projected to get $1,200. Last year, the volunteer group for seniors received $2,000.

The other local program funding missing from this year’s budget is funding for PEGASYS, which no longer is contracted to provide the city with public access TV programming.

“This is your budget. You can add to it or subtract,” Benson told the commission during a brief review of the figures. “We thought we may have led you to some decisions previously and we didn’t want to do that this year.”

The commission also discussed the contract of Mike Cooper, the city’s military liaison. Last week, the Vance Development Authority recommended extending Cooper’s contract for another five years and give him a $6,000 annual raise. They could not come to an agreement, however.

Commissioners tied 3-3 on a motion to keep Cooper’s pay as it is – $120,000 per year. Another motion to approve the contract as recommended failed to get a second supporter, as did Vanhooser’s motion to cut Cooper’s pay to $70,000.

Ezzell had to leave the meeting before that point and was unable to cast a tie-breaking vote. Commissioners likely will re-visit the issue today.

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