McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Police/Courts

March 3, 2013

City manager readies for budget shortfall

McALESTER — McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak is projecting the city of McAlester will finish the fiscal year with far less money than budgeted — and he’s planning on taking some action to make up the difference.

Speaking to the city’s Audit and Finance Advisory Committee late Thursday afternoon during the group’s regular quarterly meeting at City Hall, Stasiak said,  “The bottom line is we’re probably going to be $1.2 million under budget by July 1.”

By under budget,

Stasiak was referring to the projected shortfall in the amount the city had budgeted for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2012, and ends on June 30, 2013.

Adding to the urgency of situation is the fact that the end of the city’s currently-budgeted fiscal year is nearing its end, Stasiak noted.

“The problem is we have four months to solve this,” Stasiak told the committee members.

To this point, Stasiak said about $1 million in cuts have been identified.

Stasiak said he met with the Fraternal Order of Police on Wednesday and the International Association of Firefighters on Thursday — the unions for the city’s police and fire departments respectively. He said he asked the police union to look at $140,000 in budget cuts and he asked the firefighters to look at $112,000 in budget cuts.

Since what he’s looking at will include negotiated benefits, Stasiak told the Audit and Finance Committee he couldn’t simply order those cuts as city manager — they must be agreed to by the unions.

Stasiak said no employees have lost their jobs due to the budget shortfall.

“We have not laid anybody off,” he said.

Employees have also not been asked to work reduced hours, according to the city manager.

“We have not furloughed anybody at this point,” he said.

Stasiak attributed the reason for the problems of declining city revenue due to a number of factors, among them reduced revenue from city sales taxes, Internet sales from which the city gets no sales tax revenue, reduced water usage revenue, and decreased revenue from gas wells in which the city has royalty interests.

“It’s a multitude of things,” Stasiak said.

The city manager said he and the city department heads will continue to look at ways to save money as they work to try and find ways to make up for the budget shortfall.

Audit and Finance Advisory Committee members who attended the meeting included Mayor Steve Harrison, although Harrison left before Stasiak delivered his report.

Also present were committee Chairman Steve Foster, Ward 6 Councilman Sam Mason, Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith, Walter Bethune, a certified public accountant, and Melissa Walker, chief financial officer for McAlester Regional Health Center. City Chief Financial Officer Toni Ervin also attended the meeting.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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