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City of Nichols Hills may increase utility costs? Letter from the Mayor

*** Reposted from the Letter from the Mayor ***

As many of you may have recently heard, our city is eying a temporary increase in some of our utility rates to cover a budget shortfall this year. It’s no secret that for the past few years, Nichols Hills has experienced revenue shortfalls stemming from the reduction of sales taxes generated from the Plaza at Nichols Hills. During this time, our city administration cut positions, tightened its belt, and met its budget with added sales taxes generated from the 2010 and 2012 hail storms and increased water sales from two years of drought. 2013 has been different in that we, thankfully, have not had any major hail storms but also have had record amounts of rain. It is for this reason that at last week’s meeting the city council requested our administration to analyze the need for a short-term increase in our utility rates for payment of general services until our Nichols Hills Plaza is sold and becomes occupied by retail tenants. Speaking for myself, I do not take this increase lightly . It is my understanding that my fellow council members share the same opinion and desire to bridge the funding gap on a temporary basis. Sales tax and water, sewer and refuse collection revenues are the funding sources for our city’s day-to-day functions. These revenues are used to pay our firemen, policemen, and public employees. Conversely, funds from bond sales are used for infrastructure, road, sewer and other improvements which, in the long term, are meant to increase the value of your homes and businesses in Nichols Hills. Ironically, while the Plaza’s retail sales taxes have declined over the past few years, the overall market value of our homes has increased. This increase has provided our city with the ability to sell highly rated bonds which are paid from ad valorem real property assessments. The point I wish to make is that temporary shortfalls in this year’s revenues have little bearing on our municipal bonds and our ongoing plans for long term infrastructure improvements. One of my fellow council members remarked the other day that while something has to give, it won’t be the quality of life residents of Nichols Hills enjoy. I agree with this assessment with the added remark that our quality of life goes hand-in-hand with the quality of services our citizens receive. One example of quality service is Nichols Hills’ police department. Many of you may not know that our emergency police response times are less than one-fourth of Oklahoma City’s and less than one-half of The Village’s. This means that our police are, on average, less than two minutes away from your home when they are needed by you. It’s why Nichols Hills’ crime rate is one of the lowest in the entire Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Another example of quality service is that which is provided by our fire department. Its emergency response time is less than half of Oklahoma City’s. This means our fire department places its firemen and equipment much earlier at the scene of fires and emergency calls. Another example is our house-side refuse collection. We collect refuse twice a week at rates which are not much higher than Oklahoma City’s weekly curb-side collection rate and which are lower than The Village’s weekly curb-side collection rates. These services, among many others (city wide street-sweeping and strict code enforcement), protect our citizens, provide an enhanced quality of life, and preserve the value and beauty of our homes. I remain committed to making sure that our quality services remain intact. I believe these services make Nichols Hills a great place in which to live and an inviting place to do business. I am confident that my fellow councilmen share the same belief. It is my hope that you do too. With best regards, I am,

Very truly yours,

Steven J. Goetzinger Mayor 

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