Lawton preliminary budget rejected, next meeting planned

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Lawton City Council members got their first chance to talk about next year's budget on Tuesday. The preliminary budget proposal, with it's 2.7 percent utility rate increase and once-a-week trash pick up, was sent back to the drawing board. The city manager explained why they proposed reducing services and increasing utility fees. But the members who spoke out at the meeting said it was more costs to citizens and too many cuts to things they use.

Revenue shortfalls, cuts and increases were the main topics of the first Lawton budget meeting. With City Manager Jerry Ihler said it's a lean budget.

"This current year that we are in is the worst that we've had," Ihler said.

The city is working with a $89 million dollar budget, and are funding $1.9 million dollars for across-the-board employee raises but with $2 million dollars less in water sales and sales tax revenue.

"That's four million dollars almost, and the only way we can cover all that without significantly cutting services is that we recommend the CPI increase that council recommended back in 1997," Ihler said.

The 2.7 percent utility increase is based on cost of living, and can be approved by council. The City Manager showed that depending on how many gallons your home uses, the rate could go up $1.25 through $1.67.

The charts and graphs shown at the meeting on Tuesday mostly had a downward trend. Water accounts, number of employees and the city budget as a whole, less to work with than in years past. Councilman Dwight Tanner requested that utility increases and the number of cuts be taken out, and for the city to bring the council another way to balance the budget.

"We want to keep the services for the citizens, primarily trash pick up. and the citizens do not want another water bill increase. They are tired of it," Tanner said.

Councilman Randy Warren's request to go through the budget by department and what he says 'line by line' was granted.

"It gives the council the ability to add and subtract and see exactly where the money is going," Warren said.

The next budget meeting will be after the city council meeting next Tuesday, May 8. That meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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