TULSA - The Tulsa City Council has voted to approve the largest budget in the city's history, which has the mayor concerned about any possible drop in sales tax revenues and its impact on city employees and services.
They took a hard look at the mayor's $711 million budget plan, Councilor G.T. Bynum tells KRMG, and made more changes than any council has proposed in recent memory.
The biggest change was to triple the amount of money allocated to police academies and hiring civilians to replace sworn officers currently in desk jobs, putting them back on patrol.
In all, the council shifted about $3.4 million around, killing off some items the mayor had proposed and making funds available for a few items near and dear to some of the councilors.
Bynum says councilors spent eight weeks poring over the budget line item by line item.
"The approach that we took on this was to look at everything that's in that budget and apply the test to it 'is this more important than putting another police officer on the street?' And when you look at the budget in that way, and prioritize it in that way, as anyone has to do with their own household budget with their priorities, it helps clarify things a great deal."
Mayor Bartlett admits he's concerned. "I'm still worried, I guess it's probably part of being a mayor, you always worry. But we do need to look at the sustainability of revenues to pay for what the council agreed to," he told KRMG.
"The last thing we want to do is to hire a bunch of people, train them, spend a lot of money on training, get their hopes up, get them established in a job, et cetera, then turn around a year later and lay them off."
The council budget defers buying new computers for city workers, reduces travel for city employees, cuts council staff, and cuts $20,000 in dues for the Conference of Mayors.
It does find a 1 percent pay raise or stipend for city employees, and puts $200,000 back into the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority budget.