By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Muskogee city councilors requested two things from the city manager as he prepares a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1: Present it early, and put it in an easily understood format.
City Manager Greg Buckley said the first request is doable. The second, however, might be harder to accomplish. Regardless of either, the city will be working with another flat budget.
Recent budget discussions focused on priority projects identified during a council retreat earlier this year. City administrators and elected officials recently ranked those projects, but city councilors decided to pursue every project without regard to priority subject to available funds.
Some projects — development at Love-Hatbox Sports Complex, for example — will require funding that has yet to be identified. Other projects, such as the street improvement planned for South York, Martin Luther King and 24th streets, have funding in place.
Mayor Bob Coburn said city staff members have “done an excellent job of implementing a bunch of different priorities” during tight budget years. He predicted the same in the future, but he asked that this year’s budget be presented in a format that is more logical and can be cross-referenced.
“It would seem to me you have a revenue side and an expense side, and you could categorize those so you would have a better idea of how those dots are connected,” Coburn said, noting the many streams of revenue used to fund municipal services. “It (the present budget format) creates a lot of confusion in the discussion, and it’s way too complicated to understand thoroughly.”
Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson also weighed in on the budget format. He suggested creating a key that could be used to facilitate a better understanding of the projects and available funding sources.
“What we need is an instructional sheet that explains the codes used in the budget,” said Johnson, who also requested earlier access to the document than in the past. “Without that, you have to do so much more research than you would if you had that key to the project and funding codes — it wasn’t easy to see through that in the past.”
Johnson, who was elected to his first term in 2012, said he would like to see Buckley’s proposed budget before the end of this month. That would give councilors more time to dig into it before they have to approve it before the end of the fiscal year.
“This time will be a lot better,” he said. “But I will have a lot more questions because I understand better what the needs of our community are and how those are being addressed in the budget.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.