By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City leaders last week approved a $195.1 million budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
The budget includes raises for all city employees as well as an incentive for city employees that live within the city limits.
Mayor Matt Dukes said he was pleased with the budget.
“It meets the operational needs of the city and protects our financial security by maintaining fund balances,” he said.
The 2023-24 budget is about $14 million smaller than the record $209 million budget approved for 2022-23.
Midwest City is projecting sales and use tax revenues of $45,278,289 for the general fund, which supports many city services. The tax projections are based on the average of the last two years of sales and use tax collections.
The city’s sales and use tax collections jumped by about $5.7 million over the past year. That was an increase of about 7% compared to 2021-22 and 12% compared to the city’s projections.
“That’s a good thing,” said city manager Tim Lyon. “…Good job to our citizens who are loyal to shopping in Midwest City and please continue to do so.”
Of that total, $11,605,681 will be transferred to the police department, $9,303,906 will go to the fire department, and $10,160,439 is for the capital improvement revenue bonds. The remainder will be used for streets, neighborhood services, finance, parks and recreation and others.
Firefighters will receive a 3% cost-of-living adjustment as negotiated in a three-year contract, which was approved in 2022. Police officers are in the second year of a two-year contract that provides a 2% cost-of-living adjustment. The budget includes a 3% increase for all other city employees.
The police department will have a budget of $18,680,876 for 2023-24, which is an increase of about $800,000 compared to the current budget. Staffing will remain steady with 99 officers and about 26 others in administration and support positions. The department plans to purchase nine Chevy Tahoes, two motorcycles and a vehicle for special investigations.
The fire department’s budget is expected to grow by almost $1 million to $14,787,931. The department plans to add two positions with a training captain and an additional fire inspector. With those additional positions, the suppression division will grow to 85 employees.
The council approved the budget by a 4-1 vote at the June 13 meeting. Ward 5 councilmember Sara Bana cast the lone no vote. Ward 1 councilmember Susan Eads and Ward 3 councilmember Megan Bain were absent.
Bana said she voted against the budget because she disagreed with the priorities. She believes the city should provide more investment in the north side and less on the golf course. Bana also questioned how the city evaluates “quality of life” items in the budget.
“Quality of life is a term that’s thrown around a lot in government as a feel-good way to add value for residents,” she said. “Governments are not doing the qualitative statistics for these. We need to measure what the goals are, what methods are we using to achieve those goals and find an effective approach.”
The city’s budget for John Conrad Regional Golf Course has grown by about $500,000 to $1.83 million for 2023-24. The newly renovated course took in $2.28 million in revenue last year – more than $1 million above projections.
Dukes said the golf course is a “quality of life” issue that has attracted visitors and boosted the local economy. He said police and fire protection, water and sewer operations, streets, recreational facilities, sanitation, and drainage also improve the quality of life for residents.
Bana said she also wants to see the council have a larger role in creating the budget.
The no vote came as a surprise to Dukes. He said Bana had plenty of opportunities to provide feedback and ask questions during the budget process, which began in January.
“Although she praises the efforts of staff, her actions say something different,” Dukes said about Bana’s no vote. “Her vote sends a message to the staff that their hard work is not trusted.”
Dukes did not agree with Bana’s request for more involvement in the budget process. He said the council’s role is to review the budget, suggest input or revisions and vote on it.
“We have a statutory obligation to complete and approve the budget. Any additional road blocks to that process would be cumbersome, and bog down the entire process,” he said. “Additionally, the operational needs of the city are best addressed by those who operate the city on a daily basis. By increasing the role of council injects us into operations which is also prohibited by charter.”
City staff started working on the budget in January. Department heads assess their needs and present them to the city manager. The city manager and finance team review the needs and drafts the budget.
The city hosted a budget workshop which allowed the city council and residents to provide feedback on the budget. The city council also hosted a strategy session to discuss priorities for the city.