The fiscal year 2020 budget is in and it is about $5 million less than the previous year’s budget.
Interim City Manager Mary Rupp said the city will maintain basic services and expand services in some target areas, despite mounting concern over reserve spending and unpredictable sales tax returns.
“We began FYE 2019 with very strong reserves, but we need to continue to work to ensure that the long-term health of the city’s funds remains strong,” she said.
City staff projects sales tax collection will return to historic growth pattern of 4 percent in FY 2020, following a 2.2 percent rise in FY 2018 over the previous year.
The budget was prepared under the assumption that over $4 million in annual sales tax apportionments to the University North Park TIF will be dedicated back to city coffers starting June 30.
If the TIF persists, Finance Director Anthony Francisco said the city will be short approximately $3.1 million in the general fund and $600,000 in the capital fund.
“We would either be dipping into fund balances in both funds by that amount or we would have to come up with new revenue for new expenditures to offset that,” Francisco said.
Mayor Lynne Miller said it is illegal for the city to adopt an unbalanced budget. To get there, the council passed 17 amendments Tuesday to increase some funds and decrease others, adding some positions, cutting a few positions and making changes to the capital and general funds.
One amendment reduced the sanitation fund allocations for vehicle replacements and capital equipment by about $2.3 million. There were other reductions for the general fund and wastewater excise tax on new development, as well, and $500,000 in savings from cutting the Public Works Department’s proposed salt yard.
The addition of a staff forester and a sustainability officer may have come as a surprise, particularly after months of foreboding talk about potential cuts. Council member Kate Bierman said the council was able to maintain services and add those positions while funding the takeover of the CART bus system by finding short-term savings.
“There were some little things [we were able to cut] and we’re projecting, hopefully, some increased revenues from sales tax over last year,” she said. “That bought us a little bit of extra time but we’re still facing those long-term mega trends that we have not been able to address.”
In the coming year, Bierman said the council will likely look at expanding business licensing and similar moves to help boost revenue.
Mayor-elect Brea Clark said she knows it looks like the council doesn’t get along at times, but she chalked that up to the passion council members feel for what they do and the community.
“I think we are on the right track,” she said.
• Mayoral Proclamation: Wednesday June 19 was named Juneteenth Day in Norman. This day commemorates June 19, 1865, the day slavery ended in the United States.
• New RV/Travel Trailer Park: The council unanimously passed a proposal from Blue Jay Construction, L.L.C., to rezone the 6.2 acres east of the WoodSpring Suites hotel from l-1, Light Industrial District to a Planned Unit Development. The PUD allows for an RV/travel trailer park and all uses associated with the park to be added to the light industrial district. The use of the PUD prohibits the full range of retail and business uses to occur within the industrial area should the business vacate the site.
• Roll call: Ward 2 council member Joe Carter was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.