Just a little more than three years ago, the Yukon City Council learned that the city’s finances were on the brink of disaster. The city had less than $3,000 remaining in its reserve accounts.
That discovery led officials to delay a decision to renew the contract of then-City Manager Grayson Bottom, who later resigned.
In April 2016, the city council rehired Jim Crosby, who had served as the city manager before stepping away in 2010.
Crosby immediately went to work trimming the city’s budget and looking for ways to improve its finances.
The goal was to renew the city’s financial stability.
Crosby said that meant having a reserve fund that was 25 percent of the previous year’s general fund. In this case, that was about $6 million.
That goal appears to have been achieved … in record time.
But, it didn’t come without pain.
When Crosby first arrived, several positions were eliminated, programs were reduced and expenditures were carefully monitored.
“We’ve tried to have a relatively conservative approach to operations to make sure we do have a very strong reserve. In this day and age, it is very important,” Crosby said.
Last week, Crosby said the city’s reserve fund now has $6,153,065.
And while that may sound like a lot of money, Crosby said it really isn’t.
“If you have something major happen, even $6 million is not a lot of funds to help repair the infrastructure,” he said.
Crosby’s goal is for the reserves to reach $10 million.
“I’d like to see that (fund) grow even more,” he said.
The account is funded by a permanent quarter-of-a-cent sales tax that was approved several years ago. The remaining three-quarters of a cent is split between the police, fire and general employees accounts.
Crosby said the tax generates about $1 million per year for the reserve account.
“There are lots of demand on cities. People want this, people want that, which I do respect. You see that money sitting there, and people want to spend it. I do my best not to,” Crosby said.
And while the city does have $6 million in its reserves, a big portion of the increase was the result of the city selling land it had purchased in 2015 that was to be the home of a new city hall.
The property was purchased for $2.5 million and was sold for the same amount.
The property, which is located adjacent to the Walmart Neighborhood Market on East Main Street, is being developed as Yukon Crossings, which will be a mix of commercial, retail and residential properties.
Over 18 of the past 24 months, Yukon has seen improving sales tax revenues. However, the past four months have seen that amount decline.
“Our sales tax is down,” Crosby said.
Yukon is in a slump when compared to the previous year’s numbers, and Crosby said he doesn’t see it changing anytime soon.
“We’re barely breaking even from the previous year (sales tax) at this time. We’re six months into the year, and just barely ahead of where we were a year ago,” he said.
Part of the reason for that is lack of retail growth.
Yukon is land-locked. New businesses are moving to the area, but most are building south of NW 10th street.
That means that while they may have a Yukon address, they utilize Oklahoma City utilities and thus Oklahoma City benefits from the sales tax those businesses generate.
“That does have an impact on where people shop, and what they do and where they eat. I think it will continue along this line until we open the Frisco / I-40 interchange,” Crosby said.
Construction on the I-40 interchange is expected to begin early next year. Work to realign Vandament Avenue and to widen Frisco Road has already been completed.
In addition, an interior road off of Vandament is being constructed that will provide access to future commercial development in the area. Several businesses already have expressed an interest in the area, though no one has inked a contract.
Crosby said the city’s future remains bright.
“Overall, we’re in good shape. Our expenditures are still below our income. … We’re doing very good in that regard. I think we’re going to be OK. The city is paying its bills,” Crosby said.