Norman City Leaders To Cut $3.5M From Budget
Norman leaders have announced millions of dollars in budget cuts to departments across the city.
That comes as they face a $3.5 million budget hole.
City leaders made this year’s budget expecting more tax dollars after cutting an economic development program.
“It has been a point of contention and division in our community for quite some time,” Mayor Breea Clark said.
The Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, district approved in 2006 gives up 60% of sales tax revenue in the area near I-35. Instead of being deposited into the general fund, it goes back to develop the area from which it came.
“Our goal was to end the tax increment and put that money back into our general fund to put it into a more healthy place, which is what we budgeted on,” Clark said.
In November, Norman city councilors voted to roll back the TIF and made a budget expecting those tax dollars to return.
Two months later, a citizen group gathered enough petition signatures to put the TIF to a vote of the people, keeping the tax dollars away from the city’s general fund in the meantime.
Now, four former Norman mayors are suing the petitioners saying the city council's decision should stand.
A Cleveland County judge will decide that lawsuit Monday.
“Our budget that was depending on that increment being returned to it, has a big ol’ hole,” Clark said.
Now, the city is making $3.5 million in cuts.
“Normanites are going to feel it,” the mayor said. “What we have budgeted for fire works for our Fourth of July festival, gone. No mosquito control. We are not going to be mowing as much. We have over 60 beautiful city parks in our city, which sounds great until you have to mow them.”
The city is looking at hiring fewer police officers and draining an account designed to help following natural disasters like tornados floods and ice storms.
Clark also said Oklahoma is the only state in the country that forces cities to rely solely on sales tax revenue. She said that ties city services to economic ups and downs.
“That has got to be changed,” Clark said. “We talk about being a top 10 state. Well, top 10 states don’t tie cities to sales tax the way we do and the fact that we are the only ones in the nation should say something.”
While the city has implemented a hiring freeze, Clark said she is thankful no city employees have been laid off.
“Nobody wants to be in this position,” she said. “We've just got to get through this TIF stuff, it's consumed too much of our time and energy and divided our community for far too long.”