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Red Oak council argues over projected budget shortfall

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ERIC CORNELISON
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RED OAK - The City of Red Oak will have a $2 million shortfall in its budget by the end of the fiscal year and this has members of the city council concerned about the city's finances.

Arguments about the budget problems filled the council meeting on Friday, March 30 as even the audience got involved with cat calls and hollering.

Out of the $8.4 million budget the $2 million shortfall would come from the projected police budget, according to council members.

This shortfall was blamed on the recent disbanding of the traffic division, even though those projections had been running short each month since the beginning of the fiscal year in October.

City Manager Ken Pfiefer said he did not see a problem and did not know there was a shortfall.

City Councilmen Ben Goodwyn and Casey Hargrove said they were questioning Pfiefer about his inability to notice the shortfall long before the middle of the fiscal year.

The revenues from the police department should have been a little over $1.6 million but have only brought in about $646,000.

Goodwyn said, 'I do not understand how he (Pfiefer) could not have known there was a problem with the budget.'

According to Hargrove, the police department would have to bring in approximately $500,000 to meet the projected budget and even though the citations would increase during the summer months, there was no way this could be met.

Approximately $3.9 million of the projected budget was to come from revenue brought into the police department through fines and citations but the recent investigation into the policies and procedures of the police force and the disbanding of the traffic division would leave the city without those projected revenues, according to Red Oak Mayor Ron Bryce.

The budget will have to be adjusted to make up for the shortfall, but according to Pfiefer there was a plan in place to take corrective action.

'Everything is being dealt with in a level-headed way and there is a plan for a balanced budget for the City of Red Oak,' said Bryce.

Pfiefer and Bryce both have said the projected budget was not the actual budget of expenditures and in reality the budget may only fall short about $1.1 million.

Bryce said, 'Of course this shortfall will have a negative effect on the city.'

Councilman Gary Autrey said it was not the job of the council to micromanage the city.

'I think we are headed in the wrong direction,' he said.

This was the only thing Autrey said during the shouting match on Friday and Pfiefer tryed to point out all the goals which have been met throughout the year.

Several discrepancies in the budget were mentioned by Hargrove and one of those discrepancies was the new line items added to the budget.

Budget expenditure documents show an engineering fees line item which was not on the original budget adopted by the city council.

According to Hargrove, this puts a cloud over the city manager and his position.

The meeting ended with nothing settled, but Pfiefer said he was putting a plan in place to balance the budget by the end of the fiscal year.

'Pfiefer has a track record of balancing the budget or having a surplus of monies each year,' said Bryce.

The counci was willing to wait and see if this plan would work, even though Goodwyn said he had not yet heard what those budget adjustments would be.

Pfiefer has said many things were being adjusted - from the fines which are paid to the state to the deferring of road maintenance - but has also said the budget goals have been met and the city takes a fiscally conservative approach which may delay some projects until the next fiscal year but would not cancel those same projects.

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