Forecasted Sales Tax Decline Leaves Oklahoma Cities Facing Tough Decisions

Thursday, April 9th 2020, 5:34 pm
By: Clayton Cummins

As if the spread of COVID-19 wasn't already bad enough, now some cities in our state are being forced to deal with a loss in sales tax revenue.

Tough decisions are being made to balance budgets, for some, layoffs are included.

The City of Yukon announced Thursday it has laid off 18 employees.

The sounds of wildlife will be the only thing you'll hear this summer at El Reno's public swimming pool. It's shut down is all thanks to COVID-19.

“We are really worried about what the results are going to be and what the devastation is going to come from that,” said El Reno Mayor Matt White.

To save an estimated $600,000 loss in sales tax, White has also reduced unscheduled overtime, issued a hiring freeze and even decreased non-union pension contributions among other things.

The talk with unions, like police and fire, happen next week.

Layoffs are the last resort for the city.

“Everything is on the table at this point in time,” said White.

“It is the guys that keep the water running, it is police, fire, it is everybody,” said White. “I think everybody understands that. We have to keep core services going, nobody wants to cut anything.”

For cities like Anadarko, who also operate an electrical grid, it is a double whammy.

“We are seeing a number of people who are having to ask for extensions who can't pay for their utility,” said Kenneth Corn, Anadarko City Manager. “What will end up happening is they'll get behind probably and it is going to create a real cash flow problem for the public works authority.”

Oklahoma City's budget is also being watched closely.

Twenty percent, which is about $104 million is sitting in reserve. That is enough to last around two and a half months.

The full financial effects of COVID-19, city leaders do not believe will be felt until May or June which is the beginning of a new fiscal year.

“Through June it is going to be a hit for sure, in May and June but I think we are going to be okay,” said Doug Dowler, Budget Director for the City of Oklahoma City. “What is going to be harder is these longer term impacts of what is the economy going to look like when we get done with all of this.”

The City of Bethany was already struggling with finances pre-COVID-19.

Two special meetings have been scheduled this month to talk numbers.