ENID, Okla. —
Coming off two record-setting years in sales tax returns, a 10th-straight year of operating with a budget surplus and with the Renaissance project reaching its final stage and a $50 million parks plan vote set March 5, Enid City Manager Eric Benson said residents of Enid have a lot to look forward to in 2013 and beyond.
Benson’s comments came shortly before city of Enid Chief Financial Officer Jerald Gilbert presented to city commissioners an audit that showed the city’s revenue up 11 percent and expenses down six percent in 2012 for a surplus of $15.8 million.
‘Strong financial footing’
Benson said the city’s sound financial footing has been the result of a long-term effort on the part of himself, assistant city manager Joan Riley, and the city of Enid employees.
“The city is, and has been, on a very strong financial footing,” Benson said. “Every year since Joan and I have been here at the city, we’ve operated with a balanced budget.”
According to audit report data provided by the city’s finance office, Enid has operated “in the black,” with revenues exceeding expenses, every year for the last 10 years.
And, revenue growth has outpaced rising expenses, leading to a surplus margin that has grown over the last 10 years.
In 2003, the city brought in $49.4 million in revenue and spent $38.9 million for a surplus of $10.5 million. The 2012 audit, including $78.2 million in revenue and $62.4 million in expenses, showed a net a surplus of $15.8 million.
The city’s net assets also have shown strong growth, corresponding to the city’s increased revenues. Net assets have increased almost 91 percent since 2005, from $100.2 million to the current level of $191 million.
‘Turning a profit’
Benson attributed the city’s fiscal performance to a long-term shift in fiscal philosophy.
“When we say we’re a financially sound city, it’s not just by happenstance,” he said.
Benson said the city for too long focused only on cutting costs, and did not invest in ways to generate new revenue.
A major way Enid has increased revenue and improved its financial standing has been by boosting retail draw to the city.
It’s through increasing retail sales, Benson said, that the city is able to increase its public services and improve public infrastructure.
“No one seems to understand that the vast majority of our core services are paid for through sales tax revenue,” Benson said.
That revenue has shown strong growth in recent years, and Benson said it’s not just because of the booming oil and gas industry.
“We were experiencing double-digit growth in sales tax revenues a year before the oil and gas exploration started here,” Benson said. “Our increase in sales tax doesn’t come about just because we’re at the right place at the right time. When the rest of the country was at the height of the recession, we were still turning a profit.”
Sales tax returns set an all-time high in 2011, only to be shattered with an additional $100 million in retail sales in 2012.
Benson said sales tax returns have grown because of a concerted effort on the part of the city, Enid Regional Development Alliance, Enid Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Enid and local businesses to make Enid a retail destination.
He said the city has a vested interest in that effort because retail sales pay for public infrastructure.
“Why retail? Because sales tax pays for our streets,” Benson said. “If you don’t have a source of income you don’t have the opportunity to pay for new streets.”