Many Altus City Council members considered discontinuing membership in the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) for FY 2012-2013. This was largely a financial decision for most of the council members according to their statements. The membership is $13,000 a year, based on the size of the city or town.
Executive Director of OML, Carolyn Stager, came to Altus yesterday to answer any questions from the council.
Council member Rick Steen asked who conducted the mandated training for all newly elected officials in Oklahoma. The answer was OML. Stager was asked if that training costs more for non-member cities. Stager replied that it costs about twice the member price for training. She said there are 462 member cities and towns which OML represents. Even if a town drops out, Stager said OML continues to represent them.
Mayor Webb said, “It is our responsibility to contribute to legislation that benefits us. Yes, absolutely, it’s a benefit.” He continued that OML offers direct savings that can be measured. He referred to the two recent savings to Altus of $12,142.26 for increased DEQ fees and $51,757.09 for a proposed one percent increase to both police and fire pension systems. According to a letter Stager sent to Webb, OML efforts on these two fees alone saved Altus $63,898.35.
Council member Scot Simco asked what lobbyists cost, and then asked if OML’s main focus is lobbying. Stager replied that OML advocates for the cities and towns. “We also provide service, education and training,” she said.
Council member Mike Patterson said as Police Chief he’d called OML numerous times with positive results. Some others remarked when they called and left messages, they never heard back from an OML representative.
Council member Jack Smiley asked how many employees they’ve had to let go in recent times. Stager said they’ve pared down their team from 20 to 15. Referring to the many employees laid off form the City, Smiley said, “We may need to sit this year out.”
City Human Resources Director, Matt Coppock, said his department uses OML for salary surveys, training, advertisement and getting legislative information.
Council member Rick Steen said dropping the membership might save $13,000 and then the City may have to pay someone else for those services.
City Attorney Catherine Coke said that OML provides leadership training and has had recent training on crises, and water law.
When the vote was taken, Rick Henry, Chad Osborne, Simco and Smiley voted to discontinue membership in OML. Steen, B.F. Jr. Rowland, Patterson and Perry Shelton voted to continue membership. It was a tie. Mayor Webb voted to continue OML membership, breaking the tie.