The Sallisaw City Commission met in a special meeting last week to work on the city's budget for the 2015-16 year. City Manager Clayton E. Lucas II said the budget will be on the city commission meeting agenda on June 8. If approved, the final budget will be available for review on the city's web site and at Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library in Sallisaw.
1) Sallisaw's budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year is $48,910,441. That includes $24,967,598 for the Sallisaw Municipal Authority which uses the money to pay the city's debts and other bills. Lucas said the budget includes about $41,000,000 for long-term debt service, most of which pays for the city's water treatment plant, Diamond Net Services and Sports Complex, which is required by the bond holders. He said about $7,000,000 is set aside for salaries and benefits for the city's 123 employees. "It sounds like a lot of money, but it really is not," Lucas said.
2) Lucas said residents will have one utility rate increase in the next year. He said the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), which provides electric power to the city, anticipates a 5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2016. That increase must be passed on to the city's consumers. "We won't raise the rate any more than that (the GRDA rate increase)," Lucas said.
3) City commissioners are planning several improvements in the coming year. Water and sewer line upgrades may be expected; the street overlay program will continue; the new Sports Complex is expected to be done by late July and early August, and has been hampered by the continuing rain; engineering must be done on moving the power poles and lines for the ODOT expansion of U.S. Highway 59 on the city's north side; and $56,000 has been set aside for improvements at the city's Brushy Lake Park. Lucas said the city, just this week, received a $105,000 grant for improvements to J.T. Stites Street, which has suffered some damage due to heavy traffic for the building of the new middle school and now a new building at People Inc. Lucas said the street will not be repaved until the People Inc. building is done. Also, more income than expected is coming in for the Sports Complex, which could then be paid off early, saving the city some interest debt.
4) The city commissioners are discussing how the city is to handle stray animals. The old animal shelter has been designated as not safe enough to use, and the property is in the flood plain. A new shelter on Eppler Drive was proposed, and property purchased. But city commissioners are discussing renovating the old shelter, if possible, at a cost of between $20,000 and $30,000. In the past year, $150,000 was set aside to build a new shelter on Eppler Drive, but construction bids have been higher than the money set aside for the project.
5) Merit raises for the city employees remain in the budget, Lucas said, but have been postponed and may be cancelled. The merit raises are usually about 4 percent for those who have been employed by the city for a limited time. The city commissioners have also talked about a hiring freeze, but both subjects are still under discussion, Lucas said.
Lucas said the city is like many of its residents, and having to tighten its belt, conserve and budget wisely. "We have tried to cut out as much as possible," Lucas said. "We must have a do more with less attitude."
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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