MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 18, 2013

Council to discuss utility rate hikes

Biggest increase would be in trash collection fees

— Muskogee’s residential utility customers could see the cost of those services jump more than 10 percent after July 1 under a plan city councilors will consider tonight. Commercial customers also would see rate hikes.

The bulk of the residential rate hikes would come from the fee assessed for trash collection, a 24.3 percent increase, from $10 to $12.43 a month. A second rate hike for trash collection proposed for July 1, 2014, would result with another 20.68 percent jump to $15 a month.

A cost analysis shows it costs the city about $14.89 a month to provide trash service to most residential customers inside city limits. An analysis of water and sewer rates revealed the city also is losing money by providing those services — about $1.13 million annually for both residential a commercial consumers.

City Manager Greg Buckley’s proposed cost increases also includes the possibility of annual utility rate hikes. Those adjustments, if city councilors ultimately approve them, would tie future utility rate hikes to the Consumer Price Index.

A proposed rate hike for sewer services is based upon a 5 percent across-the-board increase for the base and unit rates for all customers. With regard to water rates, Buckley submitted two proposals. The first option would be a similar across-the-board rate hike, and the second includes a flat base rate increase and graduated unit rate.

“The graduation in unit rates is to address spreading the increase more fairly on the higher user,” Buckley states in his proposal for water rates. “On an across-the-board percentage increase, the lower user would bear a larger impact for the rate adjustment — I believe the best approach is Proposal 2.”

The proposed rate hikes are a key component of Buckley’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. City councilors will take up the proposed utility rate hikes when they meet tonight during the Finance Committee, and they are scheduled to consider budget issues during a special meeting of the City Council.

The proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is the sixth prepared by City Manager Greg Buckley since he was hired in 2008 to succeed Walt Beckham. Looking at what Buckley described as another relatively flat year for revenue, the city manager proposes expenditures totaling nearly $60.36 million with projected revenues of more than $65.69 million.

Compared with the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30, an extra $1.69 million would be available for appropriation under Buckley’s proposals. That’s up 2.88 percent from the $58.67 million appropriated for fiscal year 2013.

Projected revenue for the coming fiscal year is up 4.29 percent, or $2.7 million, from the $62.99 million available this year. Much of the increased revenue would come from the proposed utility rate increases.

City councilors will meet beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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