Sometimes it happens to the best of us. You have a good job with a regular paycheck. You often have overtime opportunities. You heard there is going to be a bonus this year. Then suddenly, not only does the overtime stop, but your hours get cut. The anticipated bonus isn't going to pan out.
The problem is, you have a family that is used to going out to eat on a regular basis. You already promised a nice vacation this summer. One of the cars is going to need some work soon, or it won't be safe to drive. Luckily, you have a little bit of money in savings.
No one would say you are broke. You still have a steady income. Your spending habits have temporarily outstripped your base take-home pay. You can use your savings for a while in the hopes that the economy turns around and overtime and bonuses are in your future. But you don't have a lot in savings. Things can't continue for long without some pretty dramatic changes.
It's just not a good place to be. This is where some hard decisions must be made. Do you call the family together, explain the situation and ask for their help? Do you roll the dice, cross your fingers and keep living your regular lifestyle until things get better or your savings account is empty, whichever comes first? Do you go out and look for a second job that will tide you over for a while? Do you sell the extra car and cancel the vacation?
The city of Tahlequah finds itself in a similar situation right now. Some of our recent budgets were based on revenue projections that didn't pan out. Anticipating increased revenue from tourism and population growth helped justify an increase in recurring expenses. Promises have been made to support future projects and services.
Because our spending habits have outstripped our current revenue, our City Council is going to be asked to make some hard decisions. Some of those promises for future projects may have to be postponed for a time. Our city administration will be asked to take a good look at purchase requests and income opportunities. Our budget for the coming year doesn't include much in the way of fluff and frill.
We know we are going to have to use our savings while changes are made. While we have a healthy savings account, it won't last long supporting our current lifestyle.
Is the city broke? Not at all. Is the city going to make some tough choices? You betcha.
Does this mean all progress is going to stop? Not at all. We still have bond projects to complete. We have grant funds coming in and we'll be actively looking for other grant opportunities. We'll be rolling forward soon with a plan for more consistent funding for roads, bridges, sidewalks and public infrastructure. Our work on homelessness and economic development is just starting. Reworking some city codes and ordinances is on the horizon.
It's going to be a whole lot easier now that you, our family, know we have a financial challenge to bridge.
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.