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April 16, 2014

General fund continues to decline as expenses exceed anticipated revenues

NORMAN — Norman’s expenses will again outstrip projected revenue in the current budget before the city council.

The budget for the fiscal year that starts in July and ends June 30, 2015, projects $210,982,020 in total revenues and $213,436,778 in total expenditures. Most of the difference is in the general fund. Budgeted general fund revenues are projected at $73 million, while general fund expenditures are targeting $75 million.

“We still have a gap between expenditures and revenue,” Norman City Finance Director Anthony Francisco said. “We have some money in a savings account that is called a fund balance, but understand that if you continue to draw on your savings account, someday you won’t have a savings account.”

The general fund balance is a cumulative carry-over from previous years when the city had money left over. Francisco said a concentrated effort to “take bites of the apple” in narrowing the gap between revenue and expenses is working. The gap has narrowed in recent years after nearly a decade of spending down the general fund balance.

“I appreciate all the work that has gone into closing this gap,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.

The city made it through the recession years by implementing lean government policies on hiring, and some staff positions were eliminated after those persons left or retired. Expenses that could be cut were cut.

“We’re a small organization for a city our size,” Francisco said.

The estimated beginning fund balance for FYE 2015 is just more than $3 million, while the estimated ending fund balance — based on the proposed budget — is about $2 million.

There is good news. While the general fund balance has decreased, the Rainy Day Fund — a reserve set up for emergencies — has increased.

Ward 3 City Council member Robert Castleberry has made it his mission to urge the city to quit spending the general fund balance.

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