Woodward City Commission’s special budget workshop meeting was held online Thursday evening.
“As everybody knows this year is definitely a challenge,” City Manager Alan Riffel said. “Certainly in Oklahoma we are feeling a double whammy of the energy crisis caving at the same time we have the pandemic impact on our economy.”
According to Riffel, we can expect extreme revenue failures coming into the next fiscal year with the whole state bracing for over 25 percent loss in income.
“We are taking that to heart, going forward and doing as many different things this year to try to meet the needs of the public without sacrificing those services," Riffel said.
The city began with a hiring freeze implemented over two weeks ago, according to Riffel. Some emergency services, though, will have to be addressed with already low staffing as certain vacancies are necessary to be filled.
According to Riffel, layoffs and an additional 10 percent furlough were both calculated and considered, noting the cost of personnel is the biggest piece of the pie in at any organization.
“This budget does not propose that. It does not propose that we extend the furlough beyond the 10 percent that currently we have,” Riffel said. “But we are reducing the overall budget significantly.”
Projecting a reduced sales tax by 18 percent, they are suggesting cutting contributions to organizations like Main Street and the Industrial Foundation by 10 percent, according to Riffel.
“We have trimmed expenses and all funds to the extreme. We will not have (begin) any major projects during this year,” Riffel said. “Unless we have an emergency need, we will not have any further capital projects to began in FY 20/21.”
According to Riffel, they are proposing that the city is at the point to formally entertain proposals on a solid waste contract.
“We have discussed that in the past. We have analyzed that in the past. There is definitely opportunities for savings without sacrificing the service that we provide,” Riffel said. “That being said, we are looking at every possible way we can prepare to enter into this very treacherous year.”
Riffel stressed the need to continue to monitor going forward and anticipate steps before circumstances impact the city tremendously.
The proposed budget goal is to provide services without an overburden on employees, according to Riffel.
“I say that because there's no doubt we have seen the impacts of furloughs on the workforce,” Riffel said. “We have modest numbers of employees. We see the remaining employees get a burnout factor.”
Because of the COVID-19 situation, the city is without inmate workers. City employees now have upcoming activities which will require a lot of extra work besides the summer mowing and maintenance.
City of Woodward Financial Consultant Meredith Meacham-Wilson agreed that it’s going to be a rough year, suggesting we may even see a depression level economy over the next 18 months.
“I want to commend Anita and Allen specifically for taking a hard look at these numbers and ensuring that we’re conservative and we're building a budget that we can adhere to (so) that we can keep providing citizens the services that they're used to (while) taking care of our employees, but not spending us into oblivion,” Meacham-Wilson said. “Woodward’s lucky because although you are oil and gas driven, you've got some diversity in how your sales tax is generated.”
According to Meacham-Wilson the proposed budget actually projects in positive income with the City’s municipal authority, which will increase cash on hand to almost six months.
Visit YouTu.be/z8el6iFRX58 to watch the recording of this special meeting.