Olney faces $28,000 budget deficit

OLNEY -- The Olney City Council held two public hearings Monday as it puts the finishing touches on  its 2016-2017 budget, which currently shows a $28,000 shortfall.

The board held a special meeting Monday in order to hold public hearings regarding an increase in its property tax rate from .707351 per $100 of assessed property to .740524. Mayor Phil Jeske said the rate increase comes as a response to recent changes made by Young County Tax Assessor, which devalued property. Jeske added the rate increase is needed in order to maintain the city of Olney’s current budget without cutting capital fund improvements or laying off city employees. 

“It’s basically increasing to compensate for a loss in appraised valuation of taxes,” Jeske said. “Our tax base went from [$92,000] to [$87,000] so if you do not change it, then you lose part of your revenue. When the county tax assessor raises or lowers the tax base, which is the value of the property - if the price of oil gets down and that drives the valuation of the oil leases or farming gets bad and the land prices fall - then your land prices go down. Therefore, you get less revenue. There is not a specific budgetary purpose other than to get the same revenue to operate the city.

“You have to do something. If you look at the budget, there are not a lot of capital expenses to cut. There is not a lot of room to cut. You either have to go up or lay somebody off.”

The second public hearing was held in order to present the latest draft of the 2016-2017 city budget. 

According to the latest draft of the city’s proposed 2016-2017 budget, the city has projects revenues at $3,179,775 with $3,207,775 in expenses. 

Despite facing a nearly $30,000 budget shortfall, city councilmen discussed adding expenses to the budget such investing $6,000 into reserve funds for infrastructure repairs, and a three-year financing plan for the purchase of two additional police vehicles from Archer City. They also discussed outsourcing management of its waste water facility to the US Water Group.

“They can come in and pretty much do whatever you want them to do,” Danny Parker said. “They do engineering, construction, everything. A big part of their business is operating your utilities for you ... They are a big deal.”

The city council will put both the budget and tax rate increase to a vote during its 6 p.m. meeting Monday inside the Olney City Council Chambers