Last week's article described a proposal from the City's Solid Waste department to modernize our trash service, reduce the amount of loose trash on the street, reduce injury rates, and allow for future city growth without increasing staffing and equipment needs.

Using tipper equipment on our trucks and providing standardized containers to all households has the potential to do all that. I've gotten a lot of very positive responses.

I want to share a bit more about the financial side of that proposal. Some have asked how the city can agree to this project when we're struggling with our cash flow. Hopefully I can answer some of those questions. And remember our Coffee Cup Conversation scheduled for next Tuesday morning at 8:30 at The Drip. We can talk about it more then, if you like.

When we are talking about the city's financial challenge, we're talking about our General Fund. This is our operating account and it covers all administration, law enforcement, fire department, parks and recreation, cemetery, IT, code enforcement, and airport. We are still spending $100,000 more a month than we take in within the General Fund and will have to make more significant changes very soon.

We have two other separate enterprise-type funds that provide our Solid Waste and Stormwater services. Enterprise funds are established to match designated revenue to related expenses. When you pay your utility bill, the money that is collected for Solid Waste and Stormwater Management is forwarded to the city and deposited into these funds that can only be spent for Solid Waste and Stormwater. This ensures that money you pay for these services can't get swept away into any other project or expense the city may have.

The last increase in the Solid Waste fee was in 2012. Residents are currently paying $12.50 per month for trash service. For the city, the fees we pay for landfill usage have significantly increased. All five of our packer trucks were purchased at the same time. Ultimately, we're going to have to start replacing trucks, and fingers crossed, we can start that before all of them go wheels up in the same year. There is no promise that fuel costs will remain low. This last year, our operating expenses for Solid Waste outstripped our revenue. It's time to request an increase.

If we must request an increase, I think our residents ought to get a better product in return. We have completed a comparison of our services and rates to other communities in Northeastern Oklahoma. There are only a handful of us still around that aren't using tipper equipment. Our rates are lower than almost all. An increase of $4 per month will put us back in a low mid-range spot.

I don't like asking for more money. I know our residents have tight budgets. For the extra $1 per week, this one should put Solid Waste back on steady footing for another few years.

Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.

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