By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City leaders had a chance to dig through the proposed city budget last week during a special meeting.
City Manager Tim Lyon said city staff worked to produce a budget that is fiscally conversative and meets the city council’s goals for the 2023-24 fiscal year which begins July 1.
The council’s goals include maintenance of city facilities, improvements to major corridors – primarily Air Depot Blvd. and NE 23rd St., urban renewal with the Heritage Park Mall, and the hospital district. Lyon said he would also like to see the city do studies of stormwater drainage, infrastructure, and comprehensive plan.
Lyon walked the city council through the proposed budget, focusing on areas of change from the current budget as well as answering questions.
The budget proposal includes more than $3.6 million in capital outlay projects. The largest of those is a $2.5 million project to remodel City Hall. Lyon said they are hoping to reconfigure office space and improve security for employees but said they have not yet begun design work on the building.
Ward 1 Councilmember Susan Eads asked if the remodel would include space for councilmembers to meet with the public. Lyon said they will take that into consideration.
Midwest City has seen strong sales tax collections in recent years. This year’s collections are more than 12% or $5 million above projections, which has helped boost the city’s reserves. Lyon said they’re taking a cautious approach and averaging the past two years. The city is projecting about $46.5 million in sales tax revenue, which is up from about $45 million last year.
“We’re more conservative than some other cities,” he said.
Lyon said the sales tax collections could be impacted by an upcoming vote to extend an existing sales tax. The city is asking voters to approve an extension of a 0.4015 cent sales tax that has helped fund improvements to the wastewater treatment facility. The sales tax would also be rededicated for capital improvements and parks.
Ward 5 councilmember Sara Bana said constituents had expressed concerns about lack of funding for parks.
“The only way we’re going to correct the issues with our parks is to make our sales tax that is going towards the sewer treatment plant is to put it towards capital improvements,” Lyon said.
Vaughn Sullivan, assistant city manager, said the city has also been able to hire more employees to maintain parks. He said higher wages have been a big reason.
During discussion of the budget for Neighborhood Services, Eads asked about expanding the city’s Boys and Girls Clubs. The city has two programs – at Country Estates Elementary and the former Telstar Elementary. Lyon said they provide funding for the Country Estates club but not Telstar.
“There are no other places to put clubs,” Lyon said.
Eads also expressed a desire to improve the neighborhood association program.
Lyon commended Tiatia Cromer, finance director, and staff in building the budget.
“In my 23 years, this was the best the finance has ever done handling the budget, being timely and being accurate,” Lyon said.
The senior center is slated to have bathrooms remodeled in the upcoming budget.
Police and fire department budgets saw little change from the past year. The police department did not add any personnel for next year, and the fire department has added a training captain and fire inspector to the proposed budget. Midwest City will not have to negotiate contracts with either union. Last year, the city approved a three-year deal with firefighters and a two-year agreement with the police.
Lyon also spoke briefly about a plan to provide city employees a bonus if they live within Midwest City’s municipal boundaries. He said the incentive could range from $50 to $75 per month for employees that live in the city. Lyon said about 182 of the city’s 485 municipal employees live in the city.
“This is just an incentive to live here,” he said. “This is where our sales tax is at. This is where we want people to spend their money and we don’t want them to live in Edmond if we can help it.”
Lyon said the city needs to consider increasing fees for the street and lighting, water, stormwater drainage and bulk waste collections.