ARDMORE – Ardmore commissioners have gotten their first look at the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year which should see loans paid off and efforts to begin some major projects. While public safety agencies would have to slow their purchases out of a recently renewed sales tax, street conditions and storm water drainage are expected to be a priority.
Other major projects to be considered in the upcoming budget are the beginnings of new homes for police, fire, and city administration. City Manager Kevin Boatright and Finance Director Sandy Doughty explained the proposed budget line by line to commissioners for about 90 minutes during Monday’s special meeting.
“I think there is a lot of great things in the budget,” Boatright told commissioners. “There are just some things — especially in the GAPS [tax] — we just had to say ‘listen, we can’t do it this year,'” he said.
The half-cent Giving Ardmore a Plan for Success sales tax was first approved by voters in 2003 and renewed in February for another 10 years. While it has provided a revenue stream for police, fire and infrastructure projects for a decade, a nearly $4 million payment connected to a loan approved at the beginning of the GAPS tax will have to be paid in the upcoming fiscal year.
“We’re not purchasing a lot of capital out of GAPS because we have a balloon payment for our note out of GAPS,” Doughty said, describing a lump-sum payment made at the end of a loan’s term.
Despite the restricted spending for GAPS tax beneficiaries in the proposed budget, the Ardmore Police Department would still receive some new vehicles along with upgrades to digital traffic tickets. The e-ticket hardware would see cellular devices installed in patrol cars and is expected to streamline the ticket-writing process.
Engineering for new police and fire stations are also being included in the proposed budget, along with a reestablished police honor guard. Funds from narcotics seizures would be used to purchase used vehicles for investigative work, which Boatright said cost less to outfit than patrol vehicles funded by GAPS taxes.
In total, the proposed budget is similar to the $117 million budget approved last year, with more loan payments expected to end in the next two fiscal years.
“The budget…ended up being a little over $117 million this year,” Doughty said. “Overall, our capital increase from last year to this year is about $6 million,” she said.
Boatright went through all line-item projects including streets, airports, and infrastructure with commissioners. Boatright said he concluded from a recent workshop that residents were most concerned by two major factors across Ardmore: road conditions and storm water drainage.
Boatright hopes to begin the second phase of a master drainage study under the proposed budget after the 20 worst areas of flooding were identified by a residential survey in the city. Among the early projects included in proposed budget are upgrades to portions of Rockford Road, Myall Road and 12th Avenue Northwest.
Boatright warned that many of the projects listed in the proposal would be the earliest stages of engineering, with expected easements and construction being considered on future budgets. He would also like to make sure city engineers have time to review street and drainage projects comprehensively
“All of these street projects are needed. They’re issues we have that we have to address,” said Boatright. “At some point we’re going to get together, go to the public and say ‘if you really want to fix these in a comprehensive fashion, then we’re going to have to pay for it and here is how much it’s going to cost.'”
Other projects included for consideration by commissioners includes work on the Garden Club Building and design of a new city hall. With a lease of the former Carnegie Library on Stanley Avenue Southwest ending in June, the city may set aside money for roof repairs on the 118-year-old building.
An elevator replacement for city hall will also be considered. Boatright said security issues with the current city hall, built in 1937, are a driving factor behind budgeting for design of a new city hall based on cost estimates.
Commissioner Nancy Sjulin was the only commissioner not in attendance but listened to the meeting by phone. Carter Observer and The Ardmoreite were the only media or members of the public at Thursday’s public meeting. The public can make comments on the proposed budget in May, with final approval expected at the first meeting in June. The new fiscal year begins July 1.