Cuts to some departments made in the fiscal year 2019-2020 Tahlequah city budget may look worrisome at first, but department heads say they are optimistic.
Fire Chief Ray Hammons said the cuts on some much-needed items will put a dent in the department, but those are feasible.
"We got cuts to the replacement of Command 1, some computers and our reserve for a new fire truck," he said.
Typically, the department sets aside funds in a reserve account every year for a new fire truck, since it's difficult to come up with $350,000 to $500,000 for the vehicle.
"Most of the stuff we had cut wasn't pertinent; you know, it was stuff we need, but it's stuff we can live without," added Hammons. "We took about a $60,000 cut from last year."
Hammons has served in various roles with the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association, as well as elected positions. He also has worked with nine mayors and has put out at least 15 budgets over the years.
"I've seen this come and go. I've worked for mayors where we didn't get anything, and I've worked for mayors where we got everything," said Hammons. "I think once the numbers are in and the facts are out, and everybody understands what's going on, I'm hoping we hit somewhere in the middle."
The chief plans to adapt to the changes, and he said the department will make ends meet, even if he only had "a bucket of water and a ladder."
"It's nothing [that is] going to kill Tahlequah. We are going to continue to fight fires and continue to help people. We're not going to back off one bit," Hammons said.
Street Commissioner Wayne Ryals said his maintenance budget, which is used to repair equipment, took a cut as well.
"We asked for $125,000 to about $140,000 for maintenance - to buy tires or hydraulic hoses that break. We do maintenance on our pickups that we use to travel out to the job," Ryals said.
The street department's fuel budget, oils, chemicals and lubricant were cut as well.
"Capital purchases did not get cut, and I only had two pieces of equipment that I asked for. I'm getting both of those. Almost everything except capital purchases got cut," said Ryals.
Ryals said he understands why cuts were made after looking at expenditures, and he expects if any problems arise in the future, he can turn to Mayor Sue Catron for help.
"I like the mayor; I want to work with her, and we'll make it work one way or another," he said.
At the June 18 special Tahlequah City Council meeting, the board gave the nod to Ryals' request to purchase a $35,000 used Rand model PT-125R Pneumatic Roller.
Another focus for the budget is the Tahlequah Police Department, headed by Police Chief Nate King. The officers are served by a union.
The Fraternal Order of Police is an organization for sworn law enforcement officers, and its representatives meet annually with the City Council. During a June 7 special meeting, negotiations temporarily stalled when discussion veered off onto the topic of the overall city budget. Approval of the 2019-2020 FOP Lodge 201 contract was approved during the July 1 City Council meeting.
King said it a matter of the council's endorsing the contract.
"From the last meeting that I attended, it had all been agreed to in principal from both sides - the city side and the FOP's," said King.