Finance Director Says City Of Shawnee Is Not Broke

 

November 29, 2018

Photo curtesy of Ed Bolt

Shawnee held their annual tree lighting ceremony Friday, Nov. 16.

By JOHNNA RAY

The City of Shawnee isn't "broke" and millions of dollars haven't "disappeared" from the city's accounts, Finance Director Chance Allison said last week.

He said remarks by former City Commissioner Tom Claybrook to commissioners during a portion of their Nov. 5 meeting are false. At that meeting, Claybrook claimed nearly $4 million disappeared from the general fund within the past few months.

The comments were made during a portion of the meeting that allows citizens to speak for no more than three minutes on any subject they choose. However, participating citizens cannot receive feedback from commissioners nor answers to any questions during that time.

Allison said he doesn't know where Claybrook obtained the amounts he alleged were missing from the city's accounts, although Claybrook said his figures were from documents obtained from the city after he filed a freedom of information request. Allison said there have been no funds drawn from reserves within the past four months and said the city hasn't had "anything significant" – other than personnel and other routine operations expenses – paid out since the current fiscal year began July 1.


"The fund balance did not decrease in the past four months," he said. "We're not broke in the sense that we can't pay our expenses."

Allison said the city spent the majority of its reserves on approved projects but said none of that was within the past few months, nor was it in the amount Claybrook alleged had disappeared. He said as a finance director, he would like to see the city's general fund with a large balance but said it's also not a good idea to have a lot of money sitting in an account and not being used for the city's needs.

"We need to build the reserves back up to a few million dollars but put a cap on how much can be held and then put the rest back into the community," he said. "(Citizens) want to start reaping benefits within the first few years of increases like the half-cent sales tax ... you don't want it to just sit there and not be used. It is collected with the intent to be used for needs that benefit citizens."

Allison also said the 2018 comprehensive annual financial report isn't expected until next month, so he knows Claybrook wasn't using that information when raising his concerns. He said once the independent audit and resulting CAFR is complete and published, the city can show that revenues were used and accounted for appropriately.


Allison recognized that recent offers to some employees for an early retirement incentive could have triggered concerns about the city's financial stability for some in the community. But he explained that offer was to "reduce the burden" of personnel costs – the city's largest operational expense – for the purpose of improving efficiency, not for emergency financial needs.

He said sales tax revenues aren't showing any significant increases and use tax does fluctuate a lot throughout the year but he said there is no reason for alarm.

"We have everything we need to meet the daily obligations and (to do) all we do and provide as a city," he said. "But for all the extra projects, we will need to do some financing."

At the Nov. 19 meeting, commissioners approved the declaration of several unneeded items as surplus and approved the sale of those items at auction. They also approved an agreement with Excel Auction to conduct the sale of the items for an agreed fee and for staff to dispose of any items that aren't sold at the auction.

Commissioners acknowledged the retirements of seven employees who will be compensated through the Oklahoma Municipal Retirement Fund. And they approved hiring Michael Ludi as the city's engineering director.

The commission also confirmed Nicholas Atwood as the city's municipal judge. Atwood's compensation and contract also were approved officially by the commission and immediately after, he was sworn into his position as Shawnee's municipal judge.


Two members of the Shawnee Fire Department were recognized for awards recently received for their service. Lt. Tony Pack, who has been with the department for about 19 years, received a peer-recommended 2018 Shawnee Fire Department Firefighter of the Year award, while Capt. Roy Reece, who has about 18 years with the department, received the citizen-nominated 2018 Shawnee News-Star Firefighter of the Year award.

In other business, the commission entered into executive session to discuss two separate items, which included personnel matters involving employee Mark Flores and Eric Benson, the city's interim city manager. They approved Flores' disability claim once returning from the executive session and took no action in regard to Benson's employment.

Several commissioners remarked on the city's recent tree-lighting ceremony and on a new event that included about 50 bicyclists who arrived for the lighting in Santa suits after biking 10 miles together. Commissioner Ed Bolt said the tree lighting drew a "big, big crowd" and "was lots of fun."

Bolt and Vice Mayor James Harrod also offered a reminder that the annual Christmas parade will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, with various musical entertainment beginning at 6 p.m. Bolt said there are a few spaces remaining for those who want to participate in the parade but he cautioned those slots will fill quickly as the date draws closer.

 

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