Stillwater News Press

January 27, 2010

Chris Day: Face reality


Stillwater NewsPress

— Everybody’s been talking about the attempts to remove Mayor Nathan Bates from office during the last two months.

Allegations have arison. Tongues have wagged. People have been threatened and feelings hurt.

Meanwhile, city business continues.

City workers put up and removed Christmas decorations. They worked overtime clearing streets after the Christmas Eve blizzard of 2009 dumped a foot of snow on Stillwater.

They continue to do their jobs daily and city business is getting done.

The question is how much longer.

The city’s revenue and budget problems have been glossed over during the dust up about Stillwater’s mayor.

Earlier this month, the NewsPress reported city sales tax collections were $1 million less than anticipated.

The situation is bleak and looking bleaker.

City staff now anticipates sales tax revenue will be $2 million short by the end of the fiscal year, and revenue from the city’s utilities will be off by $2.5 million.

That’s a potential $4.5 million loss. The budget must be trimmed by approximately 7 percent to balance the books.

The revenue shortfall shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

The state of Oklahoma has ordered across-the-board cuts for months.

Revenue in Oklahoma City and Tulsa is way down. Both cities are considering or implementing massive cuts, including personnel reductions in their police and fire departments.

Stillwater City Manager Dan Galloway told city employees recently that furloughs are possible. He also said he and the department heads will be the first to take unpaid furlough days if the need arises.

Galloway also implored city workers to suggest ways to reduce costs and help him develop a belt-tightening plan.

“We are all in this together,” he told employees.

Galloway is doing his job.

Is the City Council doing its job?

No.

The elected stewards of your tax dollars are seemingly oblivious to city’s revenue trouble.

The revenue and budget woes haven’t been discussed publicly in a City Council meeting. They must approve the budget before it’s implemented, but they haven’t kept watch over it.

Why?

Perhaps, they’ve been distracted by allegations of improper acts by the mayor and the resulting petitions to remove him from office.

Stillwater is in a financial crisis.

The attempts to remove Nathan Bates from office have proven to be a distraction to the issues facing Stillwater and its residents.

It’s time to face reality.

Chris Day is Stillwater NewsPress associate editor.