Cuts Inevitable, Layoffs Possible for Oklahoma City, Budget Director Says
By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When Oklahoma City budget director Craig Freeman asked the city economist what he thought about the national headlines that call Oklahoma City "Recession Proof," he didn't get an answer. He got a laugh.
Difficult decisions will now have to be made as sales tax revenue continues to decline for the city. For the first time in recent memory, all city departments are being asked to make mid-year cuts.
Each department has been required to submit a proposal for 2 percent cuts.
"Just four months into the fiscal year and the city’s revenue numbers are already $8.5 million below target. Our goal is to try to identify cuts to achieve $6 million in savings," Freeman said.
He said that means department cuts are inevitable and that permanent reductions are on the way. The cutbacks, Freeman said, will be felt.
"When you have to cut positions you're going to affect service, but we have to work within the resources that we have," Freeman said.
Budget office workers are still going through department cut proposals but want a plan before the city council by December 15. The goal is to make the cuts effective on January 1.
Although Oklahoma City is weathering the recession better than the rest of the country, Freeman said the unemployment numbers have doubled in the last year.
City leaders have already been working to avoid deep cutbacks. For instance, the city has been under a hiring freeze for the last eight months leaving 200 vacant positions to date.
Capital improvement projects have already been scaled back.
"It's too early for us to say exactly what services and positions will be eliminated," Freeman said.
Before layoffs, leaders will try to shift employees to vacant positions in other departments. The city's two largest departments are fire and police.