Norman City Councilman criticizes budget process

In Norman tonight, there's a heated debate over the city's process of deciding how much money to spend.

Norman's parks are ready to go as summer breezes in.

Across the street at Norman's Municipal Complex, important decisions like how often to maintain the park and cut the grass.

It's just one of the many choices city leaders have to make as they figure out how much money to spend in the coming year.

"We're planning on losing money. You can't plan to lose money," said Ward 3 Councilman Robert Castleberry.

Castleberry manages money for a living as a CPA. He says the city's plan on spending millions more than the city is bringing in is irresponsible.

"I know that if I'm managing people's money, and I budget them at a loss, that's breach of fiduciary obligation. I could lose my license," Castleberry said.

Norman's charter requires a balanced budget. This year, Castleberry says the city is using fuzzy math to justify that requirement.

Think of it like this: in your personal budget, your main source of income is probably your job. You wouldn't include money spent on a credit card as part of that available income to spend. But Castleberry says that's exactly what the city is doing by counting bond issue money---which has to be paid back---as a source of income.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal disagrees.

"We have a very lean budget."

Rosenthal says Castleberry's concerns came last minute. She adds that citizens don't want more cuts.

"There's very little fat in this budget that can be cut," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal says this discussion is the democratic process working.

"The obligation of the end of that period of working together as a team, is you support the product that we've produced and that's what the majority of us did last night," Rosenthal said.

The good news: amid all the discussion of cuts, the city's economy is doing well.

City leaders say folks here can expect the same services they're used to, and no tax increases in the immediate future.