By Gary Garton

Globe Staff Writer

COMMERCE, Okla. - Nearly $60,000 has to be trimmed from the city's budget next fiscal year, and the town needs to stop spending money from its reserve fund, an auditor told the City Council this week.

Jean Lewis of Bartlesville, with the town's auditing firm, told the council that the city can stay within its budget if the council members "watch every expenditure and closely monitor your revenue flow during the year."

"Remember, if you overspend your budget and the town can't pay its bills, each of you could be held legally liable to pay those bills," she said.

Lewis met with the council at a special session Wednesday night to discuss the tentative budget figures compiled so far, and to work on adjusting them to meet revenue for the coming year.

She and Philip Geren, a local certified public accountant, have been trying to assist the town in sorting out its accounts and getting its budget on track.

The town can earmark 90 percent of its total income in the new budget but will not know final income totals until the end of June. Complicating the situation is that the state excise board's deadline for town budgets is at the end of July.

With one more regular meeting this month, on June 17, Lewis said she doubts the town can have its new budget prepared, approved at a public hearing and published in time to meet the deadline.

At Wednesday night's session the council agreed to keep its expenses for the coming year as close to currently budgeted amounts as possible.

A key issue to be dealt with is Police Chief Bob Baine's request for raises amounting to $1 per hour for workers in his department.

Councilman Bob Crawford said those in the police department and other city departments should receive a cost-of-living increase, but not what the chief is seeking. "There's no way we're going to be able to meet the kind of raises Bob is wanting for his people," Crawford said.

Crawford, who is also commissioner of the street department, said the town will spend approximately $270,00 of its Environmental Protection Agency funds to repair streets in the new year. That does not have to come out of the city's regular budget.

Crawford said he will keep a three-person street crew on to work with the contractor hired to do lead contamination clean-up work supervised by the EPA, but may reduce the size of the department to two when that is done.

"Once the streets are fixed, we shouldn't have the kind of nitpicking pothole repairs that keep us busy now," he said.

Kenneth Leggett, the mayor pro tem, noted that the town will incur a previously unexpected expense of $4,000 from a Sept. 9 special election for mayor. Bill Rogers, elected in April to the post, died suddenly last month, and an election must be held to choose a replacement.

Trending Video