The week ahead and the week in review, in Oklahoma City civic affairs.
Tornado task force moves ahead
A major recommendation of Mayor Mick Cornett's severe weather safety task force could get another look next week. The city code commission meets Nov. 12 and may consider a proposal to require safe rooms when new elementary schools are built. City staff is answering questions for commissioners, including what standards should apply and whether private schools should be included. Cornett formed his task force after last spring's EF-5 tornado that killed 24 people, including seven third-graders in their school. Cornett has spoken to several school districts, offering to support bond measures to improve school safety.
Proposal set for sidewalk completion
Mayor Mick Cornett is proposing the city spend an additional $9 million to complete sidewalks promised to MAPS 3 voters. Voters thought they were getting more than 70 miles of sidewalks when they approved the 1-cent MAPS 3 sales tax in 2009. The latest estimates showed the city would only be able to build about 30 miles for the original $9.2 million, leaving the project well short of projections. The city council is to consider the proposal Tuesday.
City revenues short of targets
Oklahoma City's general fund revenues — the money that's the primary source for city operations — ran $3.5 million, or 3.4 percent, below the target through the first quarter of the city's fiscal year. Most of the shortfall was in sales taxes, the single biggest source of city revenue. The latest sales tax check from the state was up 2.1 percent from the same time a year ago, but that's short of the projected growth rate used to plan spending for the year. This year's overall spending plan is the city's first $1 billion-plus budget.
The sales tax shortfall is putting pressure on Oklahoma City's budget. Budget Director Doug Dowler said the city has taken steps to control spending, such as holding off on building and construction expenses and putting controls on use of contingency funds, which are set aside for use in unforeseen circumstances. “We are working closely with economists at Oklahoma City University to look at the factors influencing the current decline in sales tax and projections for the coming months,” Dowler said. “We are hopeful that the trend can be reversed, but if it continues we will take additional measures to rein in spending.”