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Oklahoma City Council adopts Fiscal Year 2022 budget

The City Sentinel Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday (June 9)  adopted the City Manager’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins July 1.

“This past year has been extremely challenging, and I am so proud of the way City staff have adapted to this new environment and continue to provide excellent services to our residents,” said City Manager Craig Freeman. “Fiscal Year 2022 is a year we are looking forward to with great anticipation. We hope to be able to put the most significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and not only restore previous service levels, nut provide even better service to our residents and visitors.”

Budget hearings began May 4 with an overview, and public safety budget proposals. Hearings continued May 18 and June 1 with presentations from other departments.

Budget overview

The total FY 2022 City of Oklahoma City budget is about $1.6 billion, which is 2.4% smaller than the current fiscal year. Information in this report is adapted from a press release sent to The City Sentinel, CapitolBeatOK.com and other news organizations.

The slight decrease is because of declining balances in the pay-as-you-go MAPs3 and Better Streets, Safer City temporary sales tax funds as those programs wind down. Also, only current-year MAPs4 revenue is included in the budget because the program is in its early stages, and an implementation plan is not yet in place.

The General Fund, which pays for most day-to-day operations, is projected to grow by 6.8 percent to about $496 million. Projected sales and use tax growth as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic is the primary driver in this year’s bigger General Fund.

There are 4,866 funded employee positions in the FY 2022 budget, an increase of 109 from the current fiscal year. It’s slightly lower than the pre-pandemic total of 4,869 funded positions.

Budget highlights

Every employee position in the FY 2022 budget is fully funded. As a budget reduction strategy in the current fiscal year, some positions were “frozen” – included in the budget, but unfunded. All funding for these frozen positions has been restored in the new budget: 21 in the Fire Department, 34 in the Police Department and the Chief Innovation Officer position.

Public Safety (Police, Fire) and More

  • The proposed budget includes $300,000 for an alternative response to mental health calls component and $1 million to fund future City Council-approved recommendations from task forces and working groups on community policing, human rights and homelessness. (An earlier release stated the $300,000 in mental health response funding is in the Police Department, but it is actually budgeted in Non-Departmental because the final location of that program has not been determined.)
  • Public safety items include restoring the Fire Department overtime funding cut from the current fiscal year, and three new civilian crime scene investigators for the Police Department. The investigators can support officers and detectives to help improve clearance rates and lead to successful prosecutions.

Parks, Recreation and Culture

  • The normal two-week Oklahoma City Parks mowing schedule is restored in the budget, after reducing the schedule to every three weeks as part of the current year’s cuts. New Parks staffing is also included for the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center,  which is scheduled to open during FY 2022.
  • The First Americans Museum is also scheduled to open this fall, and the budget includes $750,000 in operating support for what will be Oklahoma City’s newest international cultural attraction bringing visitors from around the globe.

Neighborhoods, human services and transportation

  • A new position in Homelessness Services in the Planning Department will boost efforts to end homelessness in Oklahoma City, in partnership with the Arnall Family Foundation and Inasmuch Foundation.
  • Service enhancements on EMBARK bus Route 018 in northeast Oklahoma City will increase frequency to every half-hour from every hour. The Spokies bike share and Oklahoma River Cruises services, which had been cut in the current year and restored with temporary funding, are back in full.
  • A new bike lane maintenance crew for Public Works will help keep up with our increasing bike-friendly infrastructure.

Business and Employers

  • A proposed new Public Works position is dedicated to ensuring local contractors are aware of and know how to bid and work on City projects.
  • The Utilities Department has two new proposed positions to help Tinker Air Force Base  become a part of the City’s water and wastewater system.

Funding

Oklahoma City’s largest single source of revenue is sales tax, which pays for day-to-day services. Every time you shop in Oklahoma City or buy something online, you’re investing in your community.

The City gets 4.125 percent of taxable sales made in Oklahoma City, or when people from Oklahoma City buy something online. Of that, 2.25 percent goes to the General Fund that pays for day-to-day operations. About half to two-thirds of the General Fund is for public safety – our Police and Fire Departments.

Police and Fire also have a dedicated public safety sales tax of ¾ of a cent. The Oklahoma City Zoo  gets 1/8th of a cent, and finally there’s the MAPS 4 temporary penny sales tax.

The City also gets about 13 percent of your total property tax bill. Our share goes to paying off the general obligation bonds we use for bond projects in the Better Streets, Safer City program. That funds improvements to streets, parks, Police and Fire facilities and other needs for the next several years. Check them out at okc.gov/BetterSafer . The rest of your property tax goes elsewhere – public schools, libraries, vocational schools and the county government.

Hotel tax charged on hotel room stays is the City’s only other significant source of tax revenue. It’s dedicated to promoting tourism, and capital improvements at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. 

The City also gets some revenue comes from franchise fees, building permits, business licenses, fines, service changes and other fees. Visit okc.gov/tax  for an overview on our revenue.

Budget background

The budget is guided by feedback received from an annual resident survey (https://www.okc.gov/government/resident-satisfaction?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery). 

Information from the survey also helps the City Council set priorities (https://stories.opengov.com/oklahomacityok/published/TegP9j25-). Those priorities are:

  • Promote safe, secure and thriving neighborhoods.
  • Develop a transportation system that works for all residents.
  • Maintain strong financial management.
  • Enhance recreational opportunities and community wellness.
  • Encourage a robust local economy.
  • Uphold high standards for all City services.
  • Continue to pursue social and criminal justice reforms.

Find your Council member’s contact information at the city’s website (okc.gov/council).

Visit okc.gov/WardMap to see who represents you. Find Council agendas at okc.gov/agenda  .

The budget process begins each February with a City Council budget workshop. This year’s workshop was Feb. 9 and featured a five-year forecast that included presentations from the Finance Department and the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University.

The Council uses the forecast to help evaluate the economy, and Oklahoma City’s financial position and operational expenses.

The budget hearings in the spring and budget adoption in June finish the budget process every year. When necessary, the Council adopts amendments to the budget in the middle of the fiscal year.

Visit okc.gov/budget to see the FY 2022 budget.

City-Sentinel.com

Craig Freeman is the manager of Oklahoma City. Photo provided.
COM-EMBARK
EMBARK is the Oklahoma City bus transportation system. Some routes that were limited during the down-budget cycle of the Pandemic are being restored to more frequent service. File photo
The Arnall Family Foundation, along with the Inasmuch Foundation, is partnering with the Oklahoma City government to provide services to those in the homeless population. File photo
The Better Streets, Safer City program, using general obligation bonds approved by local voters, is an ongoing effort to improve streets, parks, Police and Fire facilities and other needs over the next several years. Photo provided.