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Special meeting: Committee OKs reduced contract amounts

Vicky O. Misa

The City of Shawnee's Community Service Contract Review Committee met via video conference Monday to consider three Fiscal Year 2020-21contracts. The requests were with the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency/ Central Oklahoma Transit System (COCAA), Safe Events for Families (SEFF) and Shawnee Forward. Expecting the COVID-19 shelter-at-home guidelines to cause a dip in local revenue for the foreseeable future, the group determined it would be better at this time to dole out a slightly lighter bag of funds than the full amounts requested.

Mayor Richard Finley said he didn't believe it was fair to the organizations under review to plan for a specified amount only to potentially have some of those funds rescinded if the city was forced to cut the budget due to lower-than-projected revenue. They decided to give a nod to 90-percent funding for each request.

“We can always fund that back to 100 percent as time goes by,” Finley said. “I don't want to lull them into a false sense of security where they're dependent upon something we might do — and we might not be able to perform.”

Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison said the city does have a buffer built into the budget,as they knew the statewide shutdown would cause a certain amount of shortfall.

He said, though taxes were down about 12 percent in March, the city is still up 2.3 percent for the year.

“We have a lot of wiggle room for what we are going to receive in June,and as the economy resumes we'll continue to watch those sales tax dollars,” he said.

Allison did say he would be hesitant to increase any contracts at this time because of the current state of sales taxes.“Because we don't know what's going to happen to the economy, moving forward,”he said.

Allison said according to daily collections reports from the tax commission,“even up to last week and the week before sales tax for the state was still slightly up, over last year, as far as daily collections go.”

He said in June, the city's tax receipts for April — the month of the pandemic and total shutdown — the city expects maybe 17 to 20 percent reduction in what it receives or budgeted.

“Even if we're down 17 percent over our actual budget, we'll still break even for the year on our fiscal budget on sales tax receipts,” he said.

COTS Program

Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency (COCAA) is a nonprofit that operates the Central Oklahoma Transit System (COTS). COTS Director Tina Lowery requested $70,000 for continued support of the program. The committee OK'd 90 percent — $63,000 for now.

The funding would be used for drivers salaries and fringe fuel, as well as vehicle insurance, maintenance and repair. COCAA employs 26 staff members — 11 who are staff for the COTS. COTS operates nine mini vans for on-demand transportation pickups in Pottawatomie and Seminole Counties. For the 2019 year, COTS ran 175,224 revenue miles and provided 19,838 passenger trips. The majority of those — 18,022 or 90 percent — were Shawnee residents.The City's funding is just a part of the COTS annual budget.

SEFF

SEFF hosts multiple events in downtown Shawnee throughout the year. Funding of $63,000 — the same asked for last year — was requested. The group could receive up to 90 percent —$56,600 — instead,depending on what events actually get held and at the discretion of Allison and City Treasurer Ashley Neel; the group does not receive actual funds, the city pays invoices for particular elements of/toward events.Currently SEFF has only one part-time employee and uses volunteers to put on the events.SEFF festivals are usually free to attend and are accessible to everyone in the community. As a nonprofit, SEFF is dependent upon donations to support its efforts. According to the agenda, an economic impact study in 2015 indicated that SEFF's events left a $3.5 million footprint for the Shawnee area at that time. “We use these funds to solicit the remaining funds needed to continue to operate and grow events,” the written request reads. The request includes continued support for downtown Christmas decorations.

Shawnee Forward

Fairly new organization, Shawnee Forward, Inc., begins its third year in July.Its request of $307,000 — unchanged from the current level of funding — will be backed down to $276,300, a total of 90 percent of what was asked for.

Allison said part of Shawnee Forward's funds come from economic development money.

In 2018, the Shawnee Economic Development Foundation merged with the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce to eliminate duplicated services.

There is currently one full-time employee — the economic development director — who is supported by the marketing director, who now spends half his time on the economic development marketing needs of the organization. The membership director is also available as needed to support the needs of the economic development activities.

Those areas reportedly will include, but not be limited to continued business retention and expansion efforts to assist in creating and retaining the largest number of wealth-producing jobs for the area,along with a realistic approach to attracting new business.

Watch for updates.

Check it out

Members of the contract review committee are:

•Mayor Richard Finley

•Vice Mayor and Ward 3 City Commissioner James Harrod

•the Rev. Ray Belford

•Ken McDowell