Claremore Daily Progress

June 6, 2014

Public hearing on proposed budget set

Rebecca Hattaway
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The City of Claremore will host a public hearing Monday to present information and answer questions about the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget proposal.
City Manager Jim Thomas presented an overview to the city council last week, saying “the budget is balanced, there are a number of new initiatives and there is no rate increase.”
The budget emphasizes city planning and economic development, water quality and design, infrastructure improvements, reinventing municipal operations and partnerships and tourism promotion.
“The FY 2015 recommended budget, as outlined, required difficult choices and decisions, but it is sound in its fiscal purpose as we have balanced our revenues and expenditures to provide the kind of quality service our Claremore residents have come to expect,” Thomas said in the proposal’s introductory letter to the council.
The city’s General Fund reserves have increased from $600,000 in FY 2011 to more than $3.5 million now, according to Thomas.
“This has been accomplished by ‘managed disciplined spending’ by the City department directors and conservative revenue projections,” he said. “Each departmental organization has been tasked with challenging the ‘status quo’ and we will continue to reinvent our operations as we go forward in the new fiscal year.”
Totaling $73,959,188, the budget is broken down as follows:
•Operating Expenses, $28,495,727 — 39 percent of the total budget
•Salary and Benefits, $15,992,337 — 22 percent
•Transfers and Reserve Funds, $14,340,092 — 19 percent
•Infrastructure Capital Expenses, $10,933,130 — 15 percent
•Debt Service, $4,197,902 — 6 percent
The budget does not include any service fee adjustments or rate increases for water or electric.
“However, it should be noted with the current direction of the EPA and President Obama forcing air standards which must reduce pollutant emissions from electric utility providers, these additional costs will be passed along to the consumer,” Thomas said. “GRDA, which supplies our electricity, is moving away from cheaper coal burning electric generators to more expensive natural gas. The current facility under construction in Chouteau is approximately $400 million and is a natural gas facility. We can expect an increase from GRDA of approximately 8 percent sometime in 2016.”
Thomas said the budget focuses on investing in long range strategic goals outlined in the “Claremore 2020 Strategic Plan.”
The major infrastructure and capital projects include:
•Country Club/SH 20 Connection, $2.8 million
•Substation #5 Claremore Plaza, $1 million
•Fire Administration/Senior Citizen Center, $700,000
•Completion of Water Design Facility, $600,000
•Sanitation Sideloader, $270,000
•Recreation Center new tile pool, $245,000
In addition, Thomas said, “The city administration will invest in major programs which will allow for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness when fully implemented in the year ahead.”
For example, the police department will be rolling out computer aided dispatch (CAD) technology, which will give management tools and information to assess the community’s needs and ensure accountability with law enforcement personnel.
“The electric and water departments are still working through the implementation of the ‘smart grid’ system, which will allow for accurate accounting of electric and water usage with our customers,” Thomas said. “We will also begin to address the ever-present challenges of blinks and power outages caused by weather, rodents of unusual size, and outdated equipment.”
To help with the transition and implementation of the smart grid technology, the electric department will fill two new positions in the coming fiscal year. One mechanic and one sanitation worker will also be hired. 
A copy of the proposed budget is available at the City Clerk’s office. The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. Monday in the council chambers in City Hall. The council will vote to approve or reject the budget either following the hearing or at the next regular meeting on June 16.