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Capital projects account for Edmond's 22% budget increase.

Byline: Brian Brus

OKLAHOMA CITY Edmond's proposed $339 million municipal budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a whopping 22 percent larger than the current year, officials said.

However, a closer look at context reveals a much less dramatic figure. After the categories of capital projects and utility funds are set aside, the city budget has grown only about 2 percent, closer to being in line with other municipal governments.

Those capital projects have been quietly collecting funds over the last several years, said Warren Porter, the city's director of finance. This just happens to be a good time to put the money to use in a lot of ways to improve infrastructure, ranging from intelligent street traffic systems to expanding the city cemetery.

"We've got a normal year on everything else. It's just that we've got a big year ahead for capital projects," Porter said. "We've been building up to this."

By state law, each municipality must have a balanced budget in place by July 1, although each entity approaches the task a little differently. For several years, Oklahoma City Hall, for example, has presented individual department budgets to the City Council over about two months, followed by a short period of refinement by council members before the entire package is approved by vote.

This year, Oklahoma City's proposed budget of $1.55 billion is down by about 1 percent compared with last year's budget. Within that figure, the general fund portion, which pays for most of the city's day-to-day services, is 4.4% larger than last year at $481.9 million. The difference is largely due to dedicated sales tax revenue that can be spent only on MAPS 3 projects.

In Tulsa, Mayor G.T. Bynum kicked off the process in April by unveiling a proposed budget, leveraging his authority to draw attention to certain funding areas such as increasing police pay and tripling the city's Rainy Day Fund to $6 million. The Tulsa $846 million budget is 2.5% less than the budget that was approved last year, while the general fund within that figure is 4% larger. The mayor's proposal now goes to the City Council for consideration.

According to data from the Oklahoma Municipal League's latest survey, in the fiscal year about to end, municipal governments across the state overall increased their budgets by 5.2 percent. That figure does not specify special fund collections or limited use expenditures.

Nearly half of Oklahoma's municipal governments said they have moderate ability to balance the cost of their needs against available revenue, the OML survey revealed, while 37% reported difficulty doing so. League spokeswoman Kay Hunt said 64 percent of the 155 respondent municipalities reported they're better able to balance their budget for the current fiscal year, compared to a nationwide figure of 73% reported by the National League of Cities.

Oklahoma respondents said the three main factors that had the most unfavorable impact on budgeting are infrastructure and capital needs, inflation and the condition of local economies.

The five most common tools cities and towns use to balance their budgets are reducing capital spending, increasing utility rates, cutting back on operational spending, increasing fees and improving worker productivity.

Porter said Edmond leaders had a water utilities master plan in 2013 that featured a major project that exceeded bids, so the $185 million concept was set aside in exchange for a series of smaller incremental projects. In the 2019-2020 budget, the city's water system will get about $40 million in work done.

Other major Edmond plans on the proposed budget include $1.5 million to improve the Second Street and Bryant intersection, $2 million for a soccer complex, $3.3 million to expand Gracelawn Cemetery, $3.3 million for street resurfacing and reconstruction, and $3 million for Hafer Park sports field improvements.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:May 8, 2019
Words:643
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