OKC water costs mandate Mustang rate hike
By Traci Chapman
Mustang residents will see a 7 percent utility increase in October, after Council Tuesday approved a $20.381 million annual budget.
City officials said they needed the increase to help overcome a deficit caused by higher costs for water it was required to purchase from Oklahoma City. It was the first utility rate increase implemented by the city of Mustang since 2005, City Manager Tim Rooney said.
“We know it’s never a good thing to have to raise utility rates, it’s not something we like to do, but it’s something that’s necessary in a situation like this,” Rooney said recently.
The amount Mustang pays for Oklahoma City water has increased by double digits, the city manager said. OKC’s base rate has jumped from $9.24 to $13.75, a 48.81 percent hike, while rates have increased by 16.92 percent, from $2.01 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons.
Mustang implemented a Consumer Price Increase in 2009; those types of adjustments are not considered a “utility rate increase” by officials.
Things have improved “quite a bit” since council approved the 2013-2014 budget, although the city had to dip into its reserves by about $270,000 in formulating the 2014-2015 budget, officials said. That decision led to the sole dissenting vote on the new budget.
“I’m still disappointed that our budget’s not balanced this year,” Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Bowers said.
“Is it where we want to be – no, but we feel we’re moving ahead,” Rooney said.
The city faced a $572,000 deficit in the 2013-2014 budget, the city manager said.
The rest of council voted in favor of the budget, and Ward 2 Councilwoman Kathleen Moon Staples was absent. Bowers did vote with fellow council members to disable a city resolution that would allow for hiring of personnel in the new year.
That gives city staff the ability to employ a new police officer and firefighter as well as a new concessions manager. Mustang Parks and Recreation will get one administrative support person, although that hiring will not take place until January.
It also would allow Justin Battles, Mustang Parks and Recreation director, to take on an expanded role in city operations. Battle would officially be named assistant city manager – in addition to his parks and recreation duties. He would function as assistant city manager 40 percent of the time, allocating 60 percent of his working hours to the other department, Rooney said. Battles served as interim city manager before Rooney’s hiring.
“Justin has done an outstanding job, he’s the person I would like to see take my job when I retire,” Rooney told council members during a recent budget session.