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Lawton's 2014 financial picture looks promising

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LAWTON, Okla._ The city says this year's budget, half way through the fiscal year, is looking good despite having to cut some services from many departments.

City Manager Bryan Long said with the implementation of the utility bill hike last summer  and the sales tax dollars being generated from new retailers, the city is on track to come out of the year with money to carry over.

Many remember the battle over the budget last spring. Two-day trash pick-up was threatened and water bills went up. It was all in an effort to save city services from going under and Long says their efforts are working.

"We planned very well moving into this year," says Long. "We've even over-estimated in some areas. Some would say I've been too conservative."

The city's needs at the beginning of the fiscal year were more than $8 million above what they projected.

"There is virtually no one, including city council that was not touched."

It became what Long calls an "art form" of finding new ways to get the city the cash it needed. In order to balance the budget, dozens of city workers were laid off and throughout the year they've had a hiring freeze on many other city positions.

The big move came in the summer, however, when Lawtonians saw a nearly $5 hike in their monthly water bill. That move alone will generate upwards of $4 million into the city, Long says, and will help to close the wide gap.

Another way they're able to make money is through sales tax dollars. Long says he's not too sure of the exact impact the new 82nd Street retailers will have, but moving into the future believes it will help.

"I have a good feel for what we're seeing out there," he said. "I think it's been a positive thing; I think we're starting to see some activity."

Holiday shopping revenues have not yet come in; but, the revenues produced over the past three months are up three percent over projections.

Long expects big things from the 2nd Street development when the hotel and conference center open in late March, followed thereafter by the opening of additional retailers.

"That's going to be a wild success," says Long.

To ensure the city's finances continue to remain in order, Long does brief the city council every month. There is also a monthly financial analysis report produced for citizens which is available on the city's website: http://www.cityof.lawton.ok.us/

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