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Local News

September 8, 2013

Water rationing takes a slice of Duncan revenue

DUNCAN — Duncan city officials are pleased with water conservation efforts by residents, but the rationing is taking a hit on one of the city’s big revenue streams.

Restrictions on hours and days people can water outdoors in Duncan, which have been in effect since May, have curbed demand and helped conserve water at Waurika Lake, Lake Fuqua and Lake Humphreys.

But on the flip side, City Finance Director Patti Clift said water and sewer revenues for the first eight months of this year are down about $723,000, or 12.6 percent, over the same time frame in 2012.

“The good news is we have been watching spending very carefully so at this time cash flow isn’t any issue for us,” Clift said.

For example, some money that was penciled in for capital improvements in this year’s budget, which began Jan. 1 and expires Dec. 31, has not been spent.

That includes tens of thousands of dollars budgeted for such things as improvements at Abe Raizen Park, a splash pad at Douglass Park and various campsite improvements at area lakes.

Clift and City Manager Jim Frieda said it was possible some budgeted items still lingering will go through and be funded between now and the end of December. Another review of the budget will be done at the end of the third quarter in the coming weeks.

But the decline in water usage — and dip in revenue — is clearly evident now.

For the months of July and August this year, the amount of water the city billed for was down 29 percent from the same two months in 2012. Clift said part of that decline could have been due to rain Duncan got in July, but it also reflects the watering restrictions.

“The water rationing is working I would say,” she  said.

The city’s budget this year is about $61 million and Duncan’s electricity and water and sewer utilities are major sources of revenue the city uses to pay for many services it provides.

Utilities were projected to bring in about $31 million to the city this year. Although much of that money is used to buy and provide water, sewer and electricity, some of it is used to pay for other city services.

Clift said she tries to watch unbilled water consumption closely and Duncan does better than most communities. In July and August, less than 8 percent of the water that was used was unbilled.

The Halliburton Osage Water Line project on the city’s north side accounts for some of that unbilled consumption because new water lines had to be flushed via fire hydrants, she said.

Sales taxes, which were projected to bring in about $13 million for Duncan this year, is another major source of revenue.

Clift said it was too early to tell the extent of sales tax losses in Duncan, if any, because of a new Target store and other shopping venues that opened in Lawton this summer.

She and Frieda had sounded a cautionary note to the City Council several weeks ago about the possibility of those stores — at least temporarily — luring some shoppers and their tax dollars from Duncan.

Meanwhile, city officials already have begun working on the 2014 budget.

Frieda has asked that all department chiefs give him their capital improvement projections for 2014 by Tuesday, and spending forecasts for maintenance and operations by Oct. 1. Meetings will be held to discuss their needs.

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