Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sallisaw Budget Tentatively Approved

Commissioners tentatively approved the Sallisaw city budget, at $16,688,764 in the general fund, during a two-day meeting that concluded Tuesday. The budget includes an approximate 6 percent raise in utility rates that Sallisaw Mayor Julie Ferguson opposes. The final vote on the budget will be at the June 9 regular Sallisaw Commission meeting. Ferguson said utility rate increases are impacting communities throughout the country. "It's a problem not isolated to us," Ferguson said about the cost of electricity. "The price of production is going up." She said the federal government imposes new regulations on the power industry, many involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and those regulations are paid for by the end users in home towns like Sallisaw. Sallisaw's rate increase will be across the board, she said, including electricity, sanitation and water. "It's a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution," Ferguson said. "That's our challenge, to provide good rates for a good quality of life." City Manager Bill Baker said the commissioners only voted on one item during the budget meeting, to earmark $100,000, if needed, from the contingency fund for a new animal shelter. Ward 2 Commissioner Ro Poindexter has worked on improving the animal shelter for years, and will help seek donations for the project. Even though some spoke out about cutting the city's budget and the city's debt, the commissioners tentatively approved giving the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce $30,000; the Sallisaw Improvement Corporation $30,000; the KiBois bus service $35,000; and the Main Street organization $15,000. Baker said, "These agencies put that money right back into the city to help the city grow and prosper. It's an investment." Baker said he also expects Diamond Net, the city-owned telecommunications system which provides TV, Internet and telephone service, to be in the black this year. The service is over $7 million in debt, and is paid for by Diamond Net revenues. Baker said, "It is a huge asset to the city, and has become almost a regular utility that everyone needs." Baker concluded, "In my opinion, the budget meeting went very well." Stay tuned to KXMX for the latest news, or visit By Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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