Proposed budget has more funding for streets and water

May 11—Preparation for a new wastewater treatment plant, plus more money for street improvements, water and tourism are part of Muskogee's proposed 2024-2025 city budget.

The city council is to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed $107 million budget at a special called meeting 5:30 p.m. Monday.

The FY25 budget contains $6 million for the wastewater treatment plant, said Tera Shows, City of Muskogee communications director.

"This is for the engineering and design phase of the plant," she said. "This will be a multi-year project."

The council had discussed plant needs at its November 2023 meeting. The plant dates to the 1950s and has had only periodic upgrades since then. It is the only municipal sewer plant in the state that uses a trickling filter system, city officials said.

In 2021, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality issued a consent order citing more than 24 ongoing violations at the city's sewer plant. The DEQ had earlier issued a consent order in 2017, after exceedances were reported because of the loss of "two of its three plant drain pumps."

Catastrophic flooding in 2019 and a chilling winter storm in 2021 exacerbated the problems.

City Manager Mike Miller said the city budget includes "more money than ever for street projects."

The strategic plan includes more than $10 million for streets for the second year in a row.

This year's projects include rehabilitation of streets in the city's southeast zone, as well as stormwater-street projects along North Country Club Road.

Budget proposals also include more money for improving water quality and replacing water lines.

"We also are continuing construction of more than $45 million of capital projects in our water lines, water treatment plant, pollution control plant and collections," Miller said in a strategic plan.

The proposed budget includes more $1.5 million going for tourism, a 51% increase from FY 2024. For 2025, the city will transfer all hotel/motel tax revenue to the Muskogee Tourism Authority for its use.

"Our hotel-motel tax has grown in FY 2024, which allows MTA to work with partners like the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, War Memorial Park and Three Rivers Museum, and many others to encourage tourism in the city of Muskogee," Miller said in the strategic plan outline.

At the council's recent budget retreat, MTA Executive Director Marlon Coleman, former Muskogee mayor, asked that all hotel/motel tax revenue be allocated to the MTA, "so we can support any of the expenses related to tourism."

The city's proposed budget also set aside $1.5 million for economic development. The strategic initiative noted that the city will continue to help fund industrial and economic development partners at the Port of Muskogee and Main Street Muskogee.

The economic development budget also includes a push to eliminate food deserts in the southern part of Muskogee and to increase retail.

"Public and private initiatives will be key as we move forward in this area," Miller said.

The total budget includes $44.6 million for the general fund. At the budget retreat, Miller said more than two-thirds of that is to go for employee compensation.

The budget also includes:

* $50 million for capital projects and special revenue funds.

* $4.1 million for enterprise funds.

* $7.8 million on internal service funds.

* $402,000 for the sinking fund.

Also, $24.8 million is to go to the Muskogee Municipal Authority (water and sewer) trust and $40,000 is to go to the Muskogee Parking Authority Trust.

Miller said budget money has been set aside for employee salary increases.

"In our capital budget, we are prioritizing the expenditures that focus on facility maintenance, including upgrades to seating at the civic center and security measures at city facilities," Miller said.