Higher costs for gasoline, diesel and natural gas as well as a heftier than expected price tag for operation of the new water plant and replacement of an aging fleet of police cars led to the increase in rates.
“It's hard to sit here and raise some of these fees, but also the citizens expect to make a call for a police officer or a fireman, or when they want their trash picked up,” said Councilman Jerry Don Henry following the council's OK for the rate hikes Tuesday night. He pointed to the deterioration of 25 police units with more than 170,000 miles on their speedometer and trash trucks and alleyways in need of repair. “With the way oil's gone up, our bills have gone up, and we've got to continue to provide these services for our citizens,” Henry said.
Mayor T. L. Gramling, for his part, said that he is hopeful that Altus citizens will be willing to pay the extra amount needed for continued services. “Hopefully, they'll accept these increases and realize all that we're up against here,” Gramling said. “We're having a hard time getting through the current budget.”
The annual budget, totaling $40,399,119, was approved during a special meeting preceding the regular meeting of the Municipal Trust Authority and City Council.
Councilwoman Peggy Risinger cast the only dissenting vote for approval of the rate hikes, saying that she was concerned about how several different cost areas in the budget were addressed.
In other action, the council approved the transfer of a portion of the city's allocation of 4,800 acre feet of water from Lake Altus to the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, with the stipulation that the city's reservoirs be filled and maintained at full capacity beginning with, throughout and at the end of the annual irrigation run.