Leaders requesting additional personnel in next city budget

Jun. 4—City department heads discussed their needs ahead of Monday’s public hearing for the proposed 2022-2023 budget.

This year’s budget process was different as it was put together using a new software.

“The biggest difference in the budget process this year was the implementation of budgeting software that is integrated with our accounting system,” said Mayor Sue Catron. “This new software ensures that changes made in one spreadsheet carry forward ‘automagically’ to all other spreadsheets and schedules impacted by the change.”

The software also ensures that current year comparative data is tied to the accounting system. Catron said that data is updated daily throughout the budgeting process.

“When completed and accepted by the Council, the budget will feed directly back into the accounting system,” she said.

Treasurer Marty Hainzinger said the proposed budget is balanced and the balance sheet expanded this year compared to last year. He said there is still a lot of uncertainty with what the revenue will look like in the upcoming year.

Catron said one of the biggest challenges with producing this year’s budget was projecting the city’s revenue. She said the city experienced solid growth in the sales tax income over the course of two years; however, the past four months have “yo-yoed’ up and down.

“Economic-uncertainty related to inflation, the pandemic, and general unrest and lack of confidence in the country all contributed to an effort on our part to keep our revenue projections for the coming year fairly conservative,” Catron said.

The initial discussion of the proposed budget began in January and requests from the departments were needed in March. The city is not yet operating with a hired finance director and hasn’t since 2019.

“We are fortunate to have a city administrator that is a certified public accountant and finance department staff with good skills. Having a city finance director would allow much of the preliminary work to be completed without as much pressure on those who have a full slate of other responsibilities,” said Catron.

Fire Chief Casey Baker requested more manpower for his department with an additional two full-time positions.

“That will put six full-time firefighters on a shift everyday now, depending on vacation or sick and that will help out,” he said.

He asked for additional rescue equipment to accommodate rescues on the bike trail so that patients can be easily transported from the area.

“We put in for that last year but that was taken out because the bike trail hadn’t been open, but since it’s recently open, they put that in the budget,” said Baker.

Tahlequah Fire Department was approved for a new fire truck last year, and new tools to outfit that vehicle have been requested this year.

With the added full-time positions, Baker budgeted remodel funds for the sleeping quarters of Station 1.

“Right now, we can only house three [firefighters] at a time at Station 1 and we really need to be able to house four,” he said.

Police Chief Nate King said officers’ Tasers are needing to be replaced and that was something he was requesting this year.

When it came to personnel matters, King initially wanted to hire an additional lieutenant and a police-based social worker who would conduct need assessments for those in jail and follow up with victims of all crimes.

“[I] asked for one new position which is a community outreach position. I rearranged personnel and didn’t end up needing the extra lieutenant,” said King.

What’s next

A public hearing on the budget will be held Monday, June 6, 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.