Council members continue to work on the Altus budget - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Council members continue to work on the Altus budget

ALTUS, Okla._A proposed utility rate increase in Altus has left Altus City Council members scrambling for solutions to make sure that doesn't happen.

This week a proposal was made in a budget meeting where it was made clear that a decrease in water revenue had created a budget shortfall.

City council members are against a rate hike and voted against the budget proposal. They've decided to throw out the proposed budget and start over, using last year's budget as a template. By doing so, they hope they can find another solution.

"At the council meeting the other night, there were some significant rate increases there. That to me is a balancing act because the city has capital needs,” said Councilman Rick Steen.

Councilman Steen said in the past, the city has rewarded people for using water, by the rates going down as the usage went up. But, the drought isn't allowing for that anymore. He explained there is a legitimate need for businesses to use water, such as in manufacturing processes, and raising utility rates is something some just can't afford.

"So you have to balance that by being careful to balance with the needs of the citizen. Because businesses that use water in their manufacturing have to have it affordable or their cost goes up," said Steen.

Steen says they need to identify the most critical capital improvements that need to be made this year, after being deferred for several years, and figure out how to fund them…even if it means cutbacks, but not at the expense of their employees.

"They've had to go through a lot in the last four or five years. And they're the ones that have to keep the lights on, the water flowing, and all of that, and we need to recognize the city employees for their hard work over the last three years," said Steen.

Steen says the city's finances have improved over the past couple of years, and the city has been able to put money in the reserves, helping to keep them afloat.

While they haven't come up with a solution yet, when they do, he hopes it's one that everyone is happy with.

"What I'm hoping is that we can come up with a budget that is fair for everybody, that meets the city’s needs as well as the citizens’ needs," said Steen.

Steen says he wouldn't support any city employee salary cuts, because he's says the city is at a point where it's hard to maintain services with the number of employees they currently have.

The city’s utility rate study presentation will be this coming Tuesday in the council chambers at 5:30 p.m.

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