The city of Ardmore commissioners and mayor conducted a special meeting on Tuesday to review the proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The commissioners met with some of city of Ardmore staff to discuss the proposed budget, which will be voted on at a later date. No action was taken during the meeting. Ken Campbell, city of Ardmore director of finance, walked the commissioners and mayor through the proposed budget, which he described as “probably the hardest budget we’ve had to balance.”
Campbell said part of the difficulty in the budget was not only accounting for trending decreases in sales tax, but a large number of fund transfers to cover parts of the budget. Campbell said a decrease in sales tax is expected, which in turn decreases the funds going into the general fund.
One potential avenue for sales tax revenue is the Amazon collections, which were implemented earlier this year. JD Spohn, city manager of Ardmore, said the collections reported in Oklahoma City were disappointing this month, leading city officials to be hesitant about the potential collections.
Spohn told the board he believes some federal regulation will be required in order to solve the puzzle of online sales tax.
“It’s only going to grow,” Spohn said of the online marketplace.
After general discussions on funds, Spohn told the board the city hopes to see legislation surrounding the creation of Public Safety Protection Districts’ move forward, though currently legislation on the issue has been stopped in the Oklahoma Senate. Specifically, House Bill 1374, which would have established the Oklahoma Public Safety Protection District Act, got snagged in the Senate after being title stricken on April 12.
HB 1374 would allow municipalities to ask voters to decide whether the city can create public safety districts by resolution. The legislation wouldn’t create the districts nor does it require the districts be established. Instead, the legislation permits municipalities to seek approval from voters to establish public safety districts.
Voters would be asked, with the establishment of a district, to levy an annual assessment on taxable properties within the district of no more than five mills. A mill represents a dollar for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.
The collections from the millage increase would be used “for the operation and maintenance of the public safety district, including equipment, salaries and benefits of employees who provide law enforcement or fire protections services,” according to a summary of HB 1374.
Police and fire department expenses are paid through the general fund, which also pays for a variety of different operations. The general fund is funded through sales tax collections and Spohn explained mills dedicated to funding the police and fire protection services would take a lot of pressure off the general fund and provide an alternative funding source.
“This has to happen,” Spohn told the board. “It would allow the local voters to vote on it”
The legislation, due to its status, will likely be delayed until next year.