Last Updated on November 9, 2023, 8:54 PM | Published: November 9, 2023
BETHANY, Okla. — The Bethany City Council met Tuesday and heard a financial analysis of the city for fiscal year 2022 that shows increasing financial strength.
Here’s what you should know;
- Bethany has achieved an extremely high rating on a scale the firm uses much of which is thanks to City Manager Elizabeth Gray and Finance Director Michael Vaughn.
- Sales tax revenue shows an unprecedented increase.
- Bethany’s unassigned and carryover revenues have climbed dramatically, allowing the city to take care of emergencies without borrowing.
Bethany’s past finances
The City of Bethany uses Crawford & Associates to analyze the financial health of the city. Frank Crawford with the firm is normally the bearer of bad news.
“I usually don’t get in front of you very often, but when I do, it’s bad,” Crawford said, making his way to the podium.
He last came to the council a few years ago to explain to the council the dire state of the finances during 2019’s fiscal year. He painted a picture of what that was like for the council members who weren’t on the horseshoe back then.
“I can’t describe it as anything other than a giant mess…We had errors in the budget, we had numbers going all over the place. There was really no faith in any of that.”
However, Crawford was there on Tuesday to show the council the results of one of the strongest financial recoveries he had ever seen a city make.
Crawford & Associates uses a proprietary financial analysis tool they call the “performeter” to condense all sorts of financial indicators into a 1-10 scale.
They created it for Oklahoma governments first, but the model is now used internationally and has found its way into financial textbooks.
For the fiscal year (FY) 2022 audit, Bethany scored an 8.7 on the performeter’s collective financial health and capability score. This is Bethany’s highest score since at least 2016.
Fiscal years (FY) for Oklahoma municipalities stretch from July 1 to June 30. FY 2022 was from July 1 2021 to June 30, 2022.
“The fact that you’re scoring an 8.7 means you’re in the probably top 10 scores in 22-23 years we’ve been measuring this,” Crawford said. He later clarified this was top 10 nationwide, not just in Oklahoma.
In FY 2019, the city was dipping below a score of 5. Scoring that low means that City Hall has to start deciding which vendors and contractors are getting paid first.
Crawford described the massive improvements as “under Elizabeth and Michael,” the City’s Manager and Finance manager. The council members agreed.
“I think we have incredibly strong leadership, and I think the performeter is proof of that,” Mayor Lloyd noted.
Sales tax revenue continues dramatic growth
Out of the 19 financial indicators the performeter includes, a few were notable enough to deserve some of Crawford’s presentation time.
Bethany had some incredibly high sales tax figures in FY ‘22 and scored a 10 in that category on the performeter.
Crawford explained that the massive increase in sales tax revenue after 2019 was due to the Pandemic.
“What happened? Covid happened… all of a sudden sales tax over the last three years has exploded.”
Two years of double-digit sales tax growth is incredible for cities where keeping up with inflation is usually optimistic.
These increases aren’t wholly in the City’s control like utility rates, but having a 4% sales tax rate made Bethany’s increases proportionally larger than other cities.
Rainy Day Fund
Bethany has built a stable stream of surplus revenue to cover financial emergencies, too.
The General Fund money covers normal operations, and the unassigned revenues are surplus that can be used for unexpected needs.
In FY 2019, Bethany ran a razor-thin 0.1% surplus. Now, they are carrying over 41% of general fund revenues.
“A remarkable turnaround,” Crawford commented.
With utility rates due to rise next year, Bethany’s finances are in the best place they’ve been in years.
The Bethany City Council will meet again on Tuesday, November 21st at 6:30 PM.