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Waurika utility rate hike approved

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

WAURIKA, OK (KSWO) - For the second time in two weeks, Waurika's City Commission met Tuesday night in a special session to consider raising utility rates to offset a budget shortfall. The first meeting ended in a tie vote, partly because one of the council members was out due to illness. On Tuesday night, with a full roster, and a full house, they reached a decision.

They approved a 20 percent increase in the basic monthly rate, meaning the bill will go up from $72 a month, to $88. Waurika residents filled all the seats at the special meeting to find out just how much their bill will increase.

Among them, Joyce Gresham, who's on disability, and now wondering how she'll make ends meet.

"I manage to pay my bills and stuff right now but if it gets any higher I can't because we live paycheck by paycheck," said Gresham.

Waurika Mayor Mike Gaines said he hates to see the rates go up as well, but he says the council had limited options because of their budget deficit.

"We only had three options and that was to raise utility rates, which is basically our only source of income, or cut city services and employees, or bankruptcy,” said Gaines. “So, it really wasn't a good option anything other than raise the rates."

Gaines said the city has done a good job of steadily reducing their debt. In the two years since he's been on the City Commission, it's fallen from $280,000 to $15,000 last year. With this change, Gaines said they will be able to close the shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in June, and put them in better shape for next year.

"Even at that, at the end of 18, we're still going to be in the black,” said Gaines. “We're going to have money in savings. We're in a situation by far than we have been."

Along with approving the utility rate increase, the commission also approved other suggestions that had been made by an auditor, which included the consolidation of the city's financial accounts, and the removal of some restrictions on spending money in those accounts.

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