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City Manager Encourages People to Speak Up

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LAWTON, Okla_Lawton city officials are breathing a brief sigh of relief, while the entire community braces themselves for a hit on the pocket book.

The Lawton City Council approved a budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year Tuesday night, and it's not light on the adjustments.

Most notably, this new proposal will bring a minimum of a $5.50 increase to your utility bill, decrease trash pick up to one day a week, and possibly lay off up to 35 city employees.

Bryan Long has been City Manager of two other towns and has sat through numerous budget proposals in Lawton, but this one really takes the cake.

"I've gotta tell you none of them have ever been nearly as complex as what we've seen here, " Long said.

It was an anomaly of a year with four budget workshops, an $8.37 million monster of a hole to fill and six solid proposals. He said at times he just wished he had a crystal ball to tell him the right answer.

"It's not just a number we're talking about. It's an impact. The trick in balancing our budget is finding a balancing point, not just for the number, but for the amount of impact on the community, " Long explained.

But now that the council has decided on an answer, the outpour of community feedback is coming in, and it's not all bubble gum and sunshine.

"It's hard now and people are struggling. So, if you raise water bills and gas prices and how are people going to live?" one Lawton woman said.

"Of course I don't like the $4 but if that's what we gotta pay, that's what we gotta pay, " echoed another concerned resident.

"I just think the budget could be balanced a little better than it is now, " chimed in another.

Long says he understands. He just asks if you've got a complaint, back it up with a solution. And that's why he wants to remind you that City Hall is as much yours at it is the Council's. His sentiment is take an active role so we can erase that disconnect between the city and the citizens.

"Get out there. Help us here. It's easy to criticize, it's harder to find a good solution, " said Long.

Long said he welcomes open communication with any concerned citizen.

He said there won't necessarily be any big changes going forward as far as keeping the city on track. He just said they will be more sensitive towards certain trends and a more watchful eye will be kept on the monthly financial reports.

Those reports are available on the city's website, and he encourages people to check them out and bring any questions they have forward.

As of July 1st, the lowest possible monthly balance on your utility bill will be $62.06.

The details concerning the switch to once a week trash pick up and city lay-offs are still being discussed. We will report on those changes as the details become available.

 

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