We hope the Norman city manager's challenge to department heads to cut 10 percent from their expenses for the next fiscal year remains just an exercise. The $5.2 million in cuts proposed include some of the city's most popular programs and could cut deep in police and fire protection services.

City department heads met for a budget retreat this past weekend. The scenarios proposed by Brad Gambill's management team won't happen unless things get really tight and the council directs budgets be cut. A larger percentage of increase of sales tax revenue could stave off any cuts.

The cuts envisioned include mostly personnel but some projects and events were also included. The police department utilizes 94 percent of its budget for personnel. Chief Phil Cotten says he would eliminate 16 employees from his department.

Under a 10 percent cut scenario, Fire Chief Johnny Vaughn proposes to lay off 21 firefighters and close one of the department's stations.

The next fiscal year begins July 1. Council members will meet on the budget in coming months.

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