NORMAN — Norman officials have approved a bare-bones budget, giving employees no pay raises except merit increases and cutting funds for supplies and maintenance.
City council members made last-minute cuts to the $71.6 million operating budget before voting 5-4 last week to approve it. Voting against the budget were council members Robert Castleberry, Dave Spaulding, Roger Gallagher and Chad Williams.
Castleberry said he couldn't in good conscience OK a budget that had to borrow from reserve funds to make ends meet.
The budget lists general fund revenue at $68.7 million and estimated expenditures at $71.6 million. The difference between the two amounts will be taken out of the city's reserve fund.
“We're operating at a $2.9 million loss,” Castleberry said. “We can't keep doing that.”
Castleberry has repeatedly said he does not want to cut personnel or services to balance the budget. He proposed an amendment that trimmed about $500,000 from the budget.
The amendment, which passed, cut supplies and maintenance by 2 percent. It also cut money for consultants, training and travel. Included in the cuts were reductions in the amount the city gives to Sooner Theatre and Firehouse Art Center.
If the budget picture improves by midyear, Castleberry said, “things can be put back in. It's a pre-emptive measure. I'd rather see us cut some now so it won't be so bad next year.”
Councilman Greg Jungman said the cuts were unnecessary because the budget is on a “recovery track.” A recession set the city's finances back, “but now we're doing the right things to recover.”
“The sky is not falling,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. She pointed to the rainy-day fund that has been established, another emergency fund set up to deal with disasters and an economy that seems to be recovering.
The overall budget includes capital improvement money and utilities revenue. Together with the general operating fund, it adds up to about $225 million.
Finance Director Anthony Francisco said sales tax returns might come in better than predicted.
“If things turn around, then we can add back in some of the things we have cut,” Castleberry said.