Last week, the Edmond City
Council held budget hearings. The good
news – it will balance with no predicted layoffs or furloughs. More good news? We are raising the percentage of reserves, or
rainy day money, in the operating account.
The bad news – reduced sales tax of more than 9% from last year’s budget
means tough choices.
It‘s taxpayer money, and
Edmond’s taxpayers need to know how it was prioritized. First and foremost, we are proposing a
reduced budget that does not reduce police, fire or other city services. Currently, we do not propose any layoffs or
Second, we are continuing
with as many capital projects, including roads, as the budget will allow. Priority is being given to projects
identified before the 2000 sales tax vote.
Included, is the completion of the MAC expansion – which includes the
second community swimming pool. It also
includes several road projects, like the continued planning, design,
right-of-way acquisition and widening of Covell.
The question taxpayers are
asking is what distinguishes Edmond from other communities that are facing
layoffs, furloughs, and reduced city services?
Several decisions some made recently and some made more than a decade
ago, have helped Edmond in this time of economic uncertainty. The soundness of our electric utility,
Edmond Electric, is top of the list.
Edmond Electric provides rates to Edmond residents at a lower cost, is
basically self-sufficient, and gives us the ability to add needed revenues to
our operating fund, and to support entities like the Edmond Economic
Also critical is the
cost-cutting measures of city staff.
Every department, from Public Works to Police, cut costs. No new
positions were added. Our finance director, Ross VanderHamm, met
with each department. They were asked to
reduce their budgets by 7 %. They did –
by cutting or delaying projects, by trimming expenses again, and by
Another big factor was the
City Council’s change in how Edmond pays for ambulance service. Like other Oklahoma cities, Edmond now has
an opt-out feature for ambulance service.
It saves money for residents, and eases a great burden on the city’s
Our budget is dependent on
several factors – all of which could change this precarious balancing act. Top city management, on their own initiative,
declined any pay increases. As Edmond
works to reach new contract agreements with the three unions representing
police, fire, and employees, these top leaders are setting a good example. Our tentative budget has a 0% increase –
which requires no pay increases for employees.
Another crucial element is
the leveling or increase in sales tax collection. Last month, our sales tax stayed even with
the prior month. Hopefully, we will see
these numbers stay even.
City council continues to
prioritize those projects which bring matching funds. We continue to work with Oklahoma Department
of Transportation and Oklahoma County for increase road funding. We are working with the YMCA to reach
agreement for additional private funding for the MAC expansion. Our public art fund is only spent when there
are matching private dollars. We
continue to partner with our Edmond Public Schools, Francis Tuttle Career Technology
and University of Central Oklahoma on projects ranging from economic
development to educational training for employees.
Most importantly, it is
our Edmond residents that have made this possible. You listen when we ask you
to shop Edmond first. You act when we
call for volunteers to work on our city parks.
You give tirelessly to our boards and commissions. You tip the balance in our favor. You make Edmond great.