MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 24, 2014

Budget approved on final day to act

It projects $60M in spending from revenues of $71M

City councilors bumped up against a deadline Monday, approving the city’s fiscal year budget for 2015 on the last day allowed by state law.

Muskogee’s elected officials have been reviewing for more than two weeks the budget proposals assembled by City Manager Howard Brown Jr. Councilors delayed passage so they could hash out their concerns privately in small groups instead of in public debate.

The budget blueprint, Brown’s first since he came on board in late January, anticipates total revenue of nearly $71.66 million. It provides for appropriations of $60.48 million to various funds and city departments and makes a conservative estimate of future revenue.

Brown said the budget is based upon a “cautious and conservative budget strategy.” Much of the budget is contingent upon approval by voters today of five-year extensions for two sales tax measures worth a half-penny on the dollar.

“We’ve been reviewing the budget over the past three weeks, started on June 9 with the formal budget presentation and public hearing,” Brown said during a presentation and approval process that took fewer than three minutes. “This budget is balanced ... (and) the funding is set aside for (the) Hay (study) — we will take up Hay next month once we meet again.”

Although Brown touted progress toward adopting recommendations presented in a employee classification and wage study that took 18 months to complete, Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson pulled back on the reins.

“When we say adoption of the Hay (study recommendations), I want to caution that this is only one small step of the Hay process,” said Johnson, the only councilor to make a public statement about the budget that guides spending decisions for the fiscal year that begins July 1. “It is not the full implementation of the Hay study —  this is really only the first beginning of the Hay process.”

Despite his cautious tone, Johnson praised the efforts of city administrators and the ability to cut expenses in order to afford some progress toward the adoption of the Hay study recommendations. He acknowledged tough choices had to be made but shed no light on what they entailed.

Brown said during his June 9 presentation that the outlook for the city’s budget continues to improve, but it is coming slowly. In his budget message, Brown said the budget, “underscores a commitment ... to maintain service levels in our core services and implement cost-saving efficiencies wherever possible while preserving the things that make Muskogee great.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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