OKC staff talks about budget proposal for FY 2021

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council received the city manager’s proposed $1.66 billion budget for fiscal year 2021. 

The overall budget is taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The preliminary plan released for next year includes some staffing cuts.

Staff tells us two-thirds of their general fund money comes from sales tax revenue. 

“Because we’re dependent on sales tax so much for our revenue, we’re really dependent on how our residents are doing, so our residents are likely to have less money in this coming year,” said budget director Doug Dowler. 

They’re projecting a 5% hit to sales tax in the city. 

“Which doesn’t sound that bad but if you look at history; the worst year in the 1980’s during our oil bust we were down 4.7%,” said Dowler. 

And before that, you’d have to look back to the Great Recession. 

COVID-19 forced the city to make some cuts. 

Their biggest expense: staff salaries. 

112 positions will be eliminated, and another 56 fire and police jobs will be frozen, until funding for those jobs returns. 

Regardless of the lower staff numbers, Dowler says it shouldn’t affect their day to day. 

“I think one of the areas it’s going to be most noticeable is going to be in parks where they’re going to be reducing their mowing schedule from every two weeks in parks to every three, sometimes four weeks if rain gets in the way,” said Dowler. 

In addition, they’ll be closing Seller and Douglass community centers. 

The good news is the Federal CARES Act is helping with some COVID-19 expenses. 

“It is eligible for reimbursing us for expenses we’ve already incurred for things like personal protective equipment for police and fire,” said Dowler. 

Staff says it could be up to two years before things start running as usual. 

“We do expect things to get better, unfortunately, we think it’s going to take a while for things to get back to where they are,” said Dowler. 

City staff did tell KFOR, sales tax revenue the city receives is running on about a month delay. 

So, revenue from the end of March to the beginning of April is what they use in May. 

They haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly how bad it will get. 

They are planning to adopt a budget by mid-June, and the new fiscal year starts July 1. 

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