The City Council for the City of Oklahoma City held a marathon meeting Tuesday and made a number of critical decisions about allocations of money.
They went on to make decisions about financial incentives for Costco and an apartment complex, as well as CARES Act funding allocation.
The Council also heard two presentations on FY 2021 budgets which included warnings about historic budget cuts due to revenue downturns from the COVID-19 pandemic economic impact.
In addition to swearing in a new municipal judge, Jason Glidwell, the Council approved the first MAPS 4 Citizen Board.
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In a unanimous vote of the Council, representatives from around the city were appointed to the MAPS 4 Citizens Advisory Board. This board is the first of the citizen oversight committees for the new sales tax projects approved by the city in December.
The Board is composed of Teresa Rose Crook, Brenda Hernández, Russell Pace, Jr., Allie Shinn, Dr. Harry Black, Shay Morris, Kevin Guarnera, Daisy Muñoz, Dr. Monique Bruner, and Bob Nelon.
The first Chair of the Board will be Teresa Rose Crook and the first member of City Council to sit on the board will be Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher.
The Council held a public hearing and voted on a joint resolution with the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust for an incentive payment for Costco.
The $3 million incentive is for the location of a Costco call center in Oklahoma City. The call center promises over 1,000 jobs in the course of three years with a median salary of approximately $60,000 a year.
The resolution was approved 8-1, with Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth *Hamon voting against.
A development plotted for 700 Northwest 4th Street at Shartel was considered for a financial incentive. The 300-unit apartment complex developers asked the city for $2.2 million in TIF money and an additional $2 million of Oklahoma City Affordable Housing Funds.
The complex will boast 72 whole units of “affordable” workforce housing. “Affordable,” in this case means that the price of those 72 units will be based on an income at 80% of Area Mean Income (AMI). That figure for the area is an annual salary of $58,000/year.
With that threshold, there will be no voucher-approved housing in this apartment complex.
However, there will be ample parking.
The resolution was approved 7-2, with Cooper and Hamon voting against.
The Council got to vote on the first round of allocation plans for the $114 million in CARES Act funding directed to the City from the federal government.
After research on the legal parameters of potential spending of this money, a broad framework of funding categories was presented to the Council. The current “buckets” are:
- City COVID-19 Response Expenditures, $59,302,295.10
- Testing and Tracing, $30,000,000
- Community Support, $25,000,000
The three main requirements for use of this money are that (1) the cost is necessary due to COVID-19, (2) the costs are not accounted for by the city’s budget as of the beginning of March 2020, (3) and that all money has been allocated and contracted for expenditure by December 2020.
Nick Singer of VOICE and Dan Straughan of the Homeless Alliance each addressed the Council during consideration of the CARES Act resolution regarding the coming eviction crisis many in our community are expecting as a result of the drastic rise in unemployment and other financial difficulties presented by the pandemic.
Singer called on public officials to slow down the process of evictions until something could be done to help. He also asked for the Council to consider eviction prevention and rental assistance with the CARES money.
Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, said there are currently over 1,000 eviction filings in the Oklahoma County District Court.
“That’s not 1,000 individuals,” Straughan said, “That’s 1,000 households. That could be 2,000 or 3,000 or more people who will lose their homes.”
Straughan said that while the city has strong partners in the non-profit and faith-based community, the need for Community Support funding is critical. “It’s needed now.”
Hamon, Cooper, and Ward 7 Councilwoman Nice each took time to express the same concerns.
Doug Dowler of the City Budget Department gave a brief presentation of FY21 budget projections in advance of budget hearings to take up meeting time over the next four weeks at Council.
He pointed to a 5% reduction in sales tax projections for the coming year and a more dire 43% decline in hotel/motel taxes.
Budget presentations will be heard on June 2 and June 9 before a final public hearing on June 16.
The first budget presentation was given by Eric Wenger of the Department of Public Works.
In his presentation, Wenger said that while cuts will mean a diminishment of services, all programming of the department will continue.
Wenger explained that 19 positions in the department will be deleted, accounting for a 4.8% cut. These are positions that are currently not filled, Wenger said.
The Council will meet again next Tuesday at 8:30am.
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*Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon is married to this reporter.