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Shawnee City Commission: Contracts renewed at 90-percent funding

Vicky O. Misa

Shawnee City Commissioners — now back to meeting in person — approved three annual contract renewal agreements Monday.

In mid-May the Community Service Contract Review Committee reviewed agreements for Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency/ Central Oklahoma Transit System (COCAA/COTS), Safe Events for Families (SEFF) and Shawnee Forward for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.

Expecting the COVID-19 shelter-at-home guidelines to cause a dip in local revenue for foreseeable future, the group determined it would be better for the time-being 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was fair to the organizations under review to plan for a specified amount only to potentially have some of those funds rescinded if the city was forced to cut the budget due to lower-than-projected revenue.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 on 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.”

At the contract review meeting a couple weeks ago, Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison said the city has a buffer built into the budget, since the statewide shutdown was expected to cause a 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.

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 Transit System (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 will receive 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.

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.