Proposed Lawton budget includes utility bill hike

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Lawton city budget talks are starting this week with city council members getting ready to discuss a proposed $89 million operating budget. In the over 200-paged preliminary budget, the City Managers office lists a number of items that go over some of the big changes, including a hike in the water bill and cuts in certain departments.

Next year's Lawton City Budget offers up a lot of changes, but not all city council members are for it.

"All the other details that are in there, their is no need for me to waste time discussing," Councilman Caleb Davis said.

Topping the budget concerns is a 2.7 percent increase on the city's utility bill, which the City Manager's Office says will pick up $866,000.

The city is also proposing to cut trash collection to once a week, which would save $450,000.

Councilman Dwight Tanner doesn't agree with that cut.

"I want a budget that doesn't decrease the fundamental services citizens want like picking up your trash," Tanner said.

A reduction in trash service almost happened in 2013, but outcry from the citizens reversed the decision.

Councilman Caleb Davis said he doesn't want a budget that includes less services for more pay.

"I want a budget that starts with not raising the utility rate and see where we are, and then start working on that platform and go from there," Davis said.

The city is looking at an $89.1 million operating budget, which is down 2.35 percent from last year.

Council member Randy Warren says he doesn't want to take the budget at face value, but really dig into every department.

"Ask the manager if we can go division by division, line by line and look at the entire budget and see what the requests were. What was denied, what was allowed," Warren said.

The budget also recommends to close the west Lawton Library branch, reduce Lawton Mobile Meals by $18,000, cancel the Center for Creative Living Contract and cut fogging for mosquitoes.

Davis said he wants to find other ways to balance the budget.

Davis "Our revenue is going down, staying flat or decreasing every year. And at some point you have to tighten your belt."

Additional cuts are eliminating 11 full-time positions, 6 of which are sanitation employees, and waiting to fill 6 vacancies like a web developer or Finance director until October.

The first budget meeting is Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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