City of Lawton under hiring freeze

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The City of Lawton is tightening its belt a few months away from the end of the fiscal year in June. A report from the city's finance director in last week's city council meeting cited that revenue is down about ten-percent from what was projected.

Soon after Lawton's City Manager heard of the short in revenues, he sent out a memo to employees with 8 ways to keep costs down to avoid running out of money at the end of June.

No jobs posted online, and overtime for city employees is a no go. That's just some of the ways the City of Lawton is looking to save nearly $4.5 million.

City manager Jerry Ihler said their most up to date information comes from the October 2017 monthly report. The city is playing catch up on reports since the technology problems last year.

The city's two largest revenue sources, sales tax and water sales, haven't been looking good.

"The trend is that it has been going down," Ihler said. "This is probably the third year in a row where sales tax and water revenues have been trending downward instead of upward."

The city's 22 open positions will remain open during the hiring freeze. Departments are directed to cut 20 percent of their current materials and supplies budget. Non-critical maintenance needs to be put off until July. And employees are asked to reduce fuel and electric bills by conserving.

City Council members paying attention to this possible revenue shortfall.

Randy Warren and Dwight Tanner both say they agree with the action the city has taken to make up for the lack of revenue, but want to make changes to next year's budget.

"In a situation like this I think we probably ought to go into the budget meetings thinking about a small cut in the budget that way we will be safe," Warren said.

"We're going to have to look at doing more for less," Tanner said. "We have to be more efficient and more responsive.

Ihler said that department heads already have their budget directives, in which they are asked to cut at least 5 percent from their supplies and materials budget to start. Budget meetings within the city have started Monday, and will go to council within the next 6 weeks.

The hiring freeze does not apply to the police department's current police academy. The department is currently accepting applications to become a police officer.

Copyright 2018 KSWO. All rights reserved.