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City expected to meet FY2014 budget

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News- City of Lawton News- City of Lawton

LAWTON, Okla._ There are two months left in the 2014 fiscal year and the City of Lawton says, despite some shortfalls, they are on track to meet their budget.

Many remember the battle over the budget last spring. Lawtonians saw a nearly $5 hike on their water bill, city workers were laid off, while there was a hiring freeze on other positions to help close an $8 million gap. Fast forward to this year, and the city says they’re expecting to carry over some money to next year's budget, although it's still unclear how much money that will be.

“Lawton is doing well,” says Brooks Mitchell, finance director, although he notes the city is still working to rebound. “It’s just a matter of overall economic conditions. Our revenue levels are not where they were three or four years ago."

Back in March, the city went under mandatory stage two water restrictions, and city officials say it has created a significant shortfall. They city budgeted water and sewer revenues at $29 million for the year, but Mitchell says, “all things remaining equal, we expect to come in roughly a million dollars below that."

Mitchell believes the shortfall is concerning, but says growth in other areas, including retail, is helping to close the gap.

The city brings in money to their budgeted $57 million general fund primarily through water bills and sales tax dollars. As of March, the city is seven percent ahead of their projected $20 million in sales tax revenue.

Mitchell is confident the city will come out of the year with money to spare and has already been working on next year’s budget.

“I expect the budget for the 2015 year to be pretty consistent with what we have this year,” he says.

He hopes in the future the city can create additional revenue sources to fund items and projects currently on the back burner.

“…Replace outdated equipment and do some other things that can increase the efficiency of the city staff."

Mitchell is in the process of finalizing a preliminary budget for next year and will be turning that over to the city council in the coming weeks. The final budget will be voted on in June before the start for the 2015 fiscal year July 1.

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