State agencies and departments are starting the process of developing operating plans for next fiscal year based on the budget appropriations passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin.
The Office of Juvenile Affairs received an increase that will keep a facility open, but the Oklahoma Arts Council took at 7.25 percent cut that will affect the arts grants to organizations statewide.
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission also received less funding that will affect operations and a federal allocation for dam repair. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no state tax dollars but anticipates a larger budget because of increasing license fees. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management’s budget decreases will not affect operations because of federal funding to the department.
A budget increase from last fiscal year will allow the Office of Juvenile Affairs to keep a girls-only facility open and operating. During the state budget-making process, Director Keith Wilson said any budget reductions would result in the closure of the Norman-based Oklahoma Juvenile Center for Girls, which was opened approximately two years ago. “It wouldn’t just have been in jeopardy. It would have closed,” Wilson said.
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said she is currently putting together the agency’s fiscal year 2016 budget after receiving a 7.25 percent cut in state appropriations. Sharples said, “We anticipated the cuts knowing that all the agencies across the state were going to have to, in most cases, take some form of a reduction given the shortfall. However we are down 32 percent since fiscal year 2008 and 2009 and our appropriations on the state level are close to the 1997 level.”
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission received at 3.94 percent cut in state funding and Executive Director Trey Lam painted a grim picture for the upcoming fiscal year last Monday. Lam said though the $611 million shortfall was “not positive for pretty much anybody,” the decision to cut the commission’s budget was disappointing. “As you go forward in beginning discussions, the chance of having the same number of employees is very small,” said Lam. “Business won’t be conducted as usual, staffing won’t be as usual. We have to think outside the box.” In addition, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission received no allocation in their 2016 fiscal year state appropriations toward watershed rehabilitation. Lam said the most shocking was the lack of funds given for dam repair. OCC was given $32 million in federal funds, but must match the monies with $8.8 million in state-appropriated dollars.
Despite facing a cut of more than 7 percent in state-appropriated funds, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management insists that there will be no noticeable impact to the way the state responds to current or future disaster declarations. Director Albert Ashwood said Thursday that his department will still be able to normally address disasters in the state’s immediate future. OES received $570,054 in state funds for Fiscal Year 2016, compared to $614,614 the previous fiscal year. “It’s not going to affect us in any way, shape or form,” Ashwood said. He added that the agency is about 90 percent federally funded and that the percentage cut to their office is much less noticeable than at other state agencies.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation receives no appropriated funds from the state but will have more than $1.5 million more to work with in Fiscal Year 2016 compared to last year. While presenting the coming year’s budget at the department’s regularly scheduled commission meeting, Assistant Director of Administration and Finance Melinda Sturgess-Streich said the increase was mostly due to increased license and other fees and will be used mostly for capital expenditures. The budget for FY2016 totals $63,204,976, a nearly 5 percent increase from the $61,522,252 in FY2015.
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