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Altus balances its budget with less in water sales

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ALTUS, Okla._The impact of the drought on the water supply in Altus is being addressed in several ways in the new budget that was recently adopted by the Altus City Council for 2014.

The city will be improving their water infrastructure by relocating some lines, building new ones, and exploring their options with old water wells. Since water is the number one concern of citizens, they will also be moving forward with the Southwest Oklahoma Water Action Plan to find alternative water sources.

As voted on in a city council meeting last month, Altus residents will not be seeing any utility rate increases in the upcoming year. Altus City Manager Elizabeth Gray says in order to make up for not increasing the rates they've made the budget much leaner by cutting costs and finding more efficient ways of operating.

"We also realize our residents are conserving water this year and therefore our revenues have been down a little bit from our water sales, but we've included it to our budget to anticipate those lost sales this year," said Gray.

Gray says Altus residents have done an amazing job at conserving water and she urges them to continue.

"That's the most important thing to us right now is our water and we will ask for them to continue and we don't look for lost revenue," said Gray.

Gray says the budget includes a capital contingency fund of over $2 million that will allow for some equipment upgrades that have been put off for several years such as bulldozers and back hoes.

"We're actually going through the process right now, where we're looking at all our capital needs and prioritizing those needs. We'll take those needs to the council and they will determine where those funds go," explained Gray.

No city employees will be losing their jobs this year or seeing pay cuts, and some will actually be seeing raises. All union employees, which includes police officers and firefighters, along with all regular full-time city employees will be included in the raise.

"We're hoping this increases morale a little bit. We haven't been able to give these kinds of raises for the last three years. Last year they only got 2.5 percent and the year before that and the year before that they got nothing," explained Gray.

Non-union employees will receive a 2.5 percent step increase and union employees will receive a 4 percent increase.

Gray credits the city council's sound financial management for being able to make upgrades and give pay raises this year.

"We will be able to provide all the services the community needs as well as the special events and we look forward to serving our citizens in a responsible manner," said Gray.

Gray says they budgeted approximately $8.5 million less than last year, mainly due to not expanding various reserve funds. Over the next several weeks the city council will decide how to spend the money in the capital contingency fund.

Right now they are gathering the top needs from department heads to decide what is needed most.

 

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