With fairly short agendas, the Altus Municipal Authority (AMA) and the City Council met Tuesday, Oct. 2, with all members present. Despite the agenda length, the meeting concluded just before 11 p.m., having covered many important topics.
The Council Chambers were packed with people interested in the animal euthanasia issue (see story below) and the financial report and a MAPS overview. The meetings were reconfigured to cover the euthanasia item first. After that, about half of the audience left.
During the AMA, which was reconvened after the euthanasia item was considered, the trustees approved the Consent Agenda minus one item. The Consent Agenda included: approving the minutes for the Altus Municipal Authority Meeting on September 18, from the Old Budget, approving a claim from Joe D. Hall, General Contractor, in the total amount of $709,566.63 for the Altus High School Renovation and Addition to be paid from MAPS Sales Tax Revenue Note, Series 2011, approving purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $7,200.08, from the New Budget, approving purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $1,124,182.41.
The item singled out was an Altus High School MAPS invoice which had an affidavit for Beckham County. The Council approved paying this when the correct document is received.
The trustees received a presentation of the financial report by Finance Director, James Wilson, for the period ending August 31, 2012. In this report, Wilson said the decreased expenditures and the increased revenues are “good indications that the health of the City is improving.” With 25 percent of the fiscal year having passed, the City may have spent 25 percent of its funding. It has only spent 21.5 percent, Wilson said, for its total expenditures. Revenues from the General Fund were 25.8 percent for this first quarter and the Enterprise Fund generated 28.6 percent. These were earned in the normally tough time of year. Wilson said by the half-way point of the fiscal year he should be able to somewhat predict the rest of the year.
The shocker of the financial report came in the Fund Balances/Reserves section. Wilson said that a city the size of Altus usually holds a reserve of two to three months of revenue. Three months is best. For Altus, that would mean $3 million to $5 million for the General Fund and $5 million to $7 million for the AMA. That’s $8 million to $12 million held in reserves. Right now Altus has a little over $346,000 and is working hard to build it up to $1 million this year. Mayor David Webb interjected that was a little misleading because there are still loans due in the process. One of the Council members said, “We have nothing in reserve.”
The reality is that Altus has to try to find funding for the Park Lane and Falcon Road project matching funds. One option, Wilson said, would be to use the unused salary and benefits from the 11 unfilled personnel positions as collateral.
Some operations are being examined to see if it would make more sense to contract them out. These include: certain fleet service, mowing, recreation/sports, fuel at the airport, sanitation, garbage pickup, flatbed service, and landfill services.
The financial report rather melded into the MAPS overview. MAPS is funded by a 1.75 percent sales tax, which runs for 144 months, until 2021. Of the $28 million in loans taken by the City, $3.9 million has been paid back, and $5.1 million is invested. A common misperception of MAPS is that it would allow the City to borrow $34 million for MAPS projects. The loans really amounted to $28,285,000. The Altus Public Schools has spent $14,303,999 and is receiving another $2,696,001, totalling $17 million. The City must hold reserves in case the sales tax doesn’t generate enough money to pay the loans back. Some cities have seen their tax revenues shrink by 40 percent. Without proper reserves, some have had to file the equivalent of bankruptcy. Altus must guard against that.
Wilson has found by examining the figures that the City should not take on any more MAPS projects until 2014. At that time the City might be able to spend $1.5 million on a project and still maintain appropriate reserves. Several Council members said they wished they’d had that information a year ago, or maybe four years ago.
Council member Perry Shelton asked they reconvene or reappoint a MAPS committee to formulate long range goals. Mayor Webb said he so appreciated the hard work of Wilson and his staff in researching this financial information. The search continues to reconcile every check through the Bank of Oklahoma account, Webb said.
Various citizens spoke on the issue of a Senior Citizen’s Center. Barbara Privett read from the MAPS ballot and said the Senior Citizen’s Center was listed before the Fire Department. Former Mayor T.L. Gramling spoke during the comments section in the City Council on the Senior Citizens Center. Council member Scot Simco pointed out to Gramling that it’s not time to vote on the Sr. Citizen’s Center and brought financial numbers up as a reason the Sr. Citizen’s Center has to wait. Council member Rick Henry said Altus High School is a great facility. He looks forward to MAPS 2 after all the original MAPS projects are completed. Bobby Jones spoke on the need for the Center and concluded, bringing levity to the issue that he’d have to win the lottery to finance the Center.
Both the AMA trustees and Council voted to authorize staff to enter negotiations with Altus Air Force Base (AAFB) on a Utility Sales Contract for delivery of “raw water” from the Mountain Park Master Conservancy District”s (MPMCD) line.
There was no AMA new business. The AMA adjourned at 8:39 p.m. with the City Council meeting immediately followed with all present.
The Council approved the Consent Agenda which included: approving the minutes for the Regular City Council Meeting on September 18, approving purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the General Fund totaling $32,748.69, for the Workers Comp Fund totaling $47,632.20, for the Airport Fund totaling $15,037.54, for the Street & Alley Fund totaling $151.88; approving an Estimated payroll for September 27, 2012 as follows: Salaries - $308.431.00, Part Time Wages - $ 9,538.00, Overtime - $ 7,415.46, Contractual OT - $ 12,923.08, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,000.00, Employer Paid Taxes - $22,385.00, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 64,770.51, Employer Paid Benefits - $110,400.00, Employee Paid Benefits -$49,348.96, Workers Comp - $ 12,898.00, for a total estimated amount of: $604,110.01; Payroll Figures for August 30, 2012: Prior Estimate/Actual Salaries - $320,475.00/$315,392.45, Part Time Wages - $ 12,181.00/$7,910.42, Overtime - $ 7,415.46/$5,006.01, Contractual Overtime - $ 12,923.08/$8,924.58, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,303.00/$7,057.22, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 23,532.00/$21,243.37, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 64,095.00/$59,967.11, Employer Paid Benefits - $121,780.50/$119,240.23, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 51,276.00/$50,151.71, Workers Comp - $ 13,343.00/$14,279.25 For a total amount of: $633,324.04/$609,172.35. Percentage of Difference 3.96% lower than prior estimate; acknowledging monthly reports and minutes as follows: American Red Cross, City and School Swimming Pool, Main Street Altus.
In executive session the Council considered and discussed the annual evaluation and contract with the Business Development Director Sean Garrison. In open session, Council member Shelton made a motion to separate the employment of the Development Director, with a severance amount due and payable. The Council approved the item with a vote of five to three. Dissenting votes were made by Jack Smiley, Mike Patterson and B.F. Jr. Roland.
There was no new business, Mayor’s appointments, or City Administrator’s comments and reports.
In City Council member’s comments and reports, few made comments, possibly due to the hour.
Jack Smiley said he’d received calls and a visit over utility bills. Some said “I can’t pay this.” One expressed empathy for others that may not be able to pay higher bills. He thought that Altus may not be able to do estimating if this is the result and that those cases should be reexamined.
Scot Simco thanked James Wilson and his staff for the finance report. He said he’s gotten some remarks about the employee parking. He also appreciates the stairs at the West Sewer Plant.
Elizabeth Gray (City Administrator) remarked that there will be several spots marked “visitor” in the front parking lot and they will be monitored.
In Mayor’s comments and reports, Webb said he wished to salute Bob Mustard for walking his neighbor’s dog and picking up trash in the City Park every morning. Mustard goes above and beyond to make his City a better place and Webb said Mustard’s neighbor must appreciate his kindness too.
Bob Stephenson said that 90 percent of the drawings are complete on the Park Lane and Falcon Road projects.
Sean Garrison wanted to thank the Council and especially those who supported him. He said, “Sorry it didn’t work out.”
The meeting adjourned at 10:52 p.m.