The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 17, 2013

Trails priority: Votes on a draft budget show where, on what city wants to spend money


ENID, Okla. — Money priorities

Commissioners also voted to move forward with a budget that reflects their view that sales tax revenues will increase another 5 percent in the next year.

The vote was not without opposition, though, as Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser criticized them for “gambling” with the city budget. Fiscal year 2013 saw revenues increase by 11 percent, and the city’s fiscal staff estimate that the rise will continue.

“We’re already up 11 percent on this budget compared to the year before, so our baseline number is 17 percent over two years ago?” he said. “That is gambling that we are going to guarantee the same revenue we had this last year, and another 5 percent. I’m not willing to take that gamble on the city’s budget.”

Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell continued his support for additional spending after arguing for it during another budget meeting Monday.

“Is there something about the baseline two years ago that you think is somehow the norm? I feel like we are still going through some amount of growth here,” he said. “And with this additional investment of Koch, our sales tax revenue in the next 24 months isn’t exactly going to drop.”

Koch Nitrogen announced this week it would be spending $1 billion in Enid to ramp up its fertilizer production by a million tons per year.

Vanhooser called for a vote to maintain next year’s budget at the current revenue levels, but only gained support from one other commissioner, Ward 4’s Rodney Timm.

Discretionary dollars

One portion of the budget received substantial discussion and action Friday. Under the Local Programs section — which includes funding for quasi- and non-governmental entities — commissioners whittled the budget down by more than $129,000.

None of the votes were unanimous, but each received support from at least four commissioners.

Funding for scholarships through Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse was cut from $45,000 to $25,000.

“This is not a core service issue,” Benson told the commission.

Ezzell said $10,000 of that appropriation funds traveling exhibits that come to the center.

Booker T. Washington Community Center, which offers after-school and summer programs for at-risk youth was cut by $5,000. If the draft budget holds, the center will receive $15,000 this year. Benson said this is the center’s only funding source.

Commissioners voted to eliminate line-item funding for Enid Joint Recreation Triad, but discussed bringing the sports program into the revamped Parks and Recreation Department, expected to be created with the FY2014 budget. They also canceled $50,000 requested for Autry Technology Center’s proposed fire training tower. Benson said ad valorem, or property tax, revenue would bring the CareerTech institution a windfall.

“I’m told that the ad valorem increase in just the wind farm is $100 million, of which they’ll get $36 million,” he said.

The commission approved the requested funding for PEGASYS, Enid’s public-access television station, and also voted to fund the station’s relocation as mandated by its contract with the city. The channel must move from its current location in the Kress Building to make way for a planned hotel. The city, however, may not fund $67,000 to convert PEGASYS to high definition.

The following programs were funded, or defunded, in the current draft budget.

• Main Street Enid: $75,000.

• Booker T. Washington Community Center: $15,000.

• Enid Metro Area Human Services Commission: $7,000.

• Youth and Family Services: $5,000.

• RSVP: $1,200.

• Fourth of July fireworks: $15,000.

• Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse: $25,000.

• PEGASYS operations: $185,000.

• PEGASYS relocation: $240,000.

• PEGASYS HD conversion: $0.

• EJRT: $0.

• Autry Tech Center (fire training tower): $0.

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