Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma City Council Keeps Travel Moratorium

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma City Council Keeps Travel Moratorium

Article excerpt

A moratorium on City Council members' travel expenses paid by city residents will remain in place, the council narrowly decided this week.

In a vote of 6-3, the moratorium was allowed to stand. Those voting in favor of lifting the ban were Mayor Mick Cornett and councilmen Skip Kelly and Brian Walters. Walters originally proposed the action a year ago in October.

Their decision still leaves open the question of when the ban might be lifted.

Councilman Larry McAtee said, "There is no hard and fast figure. As soon as the sales tax revenues collections continue to increase at a good pace, our first priority should be to fill the vacant positions that have been left unfilled because of our budget restraints. ... Then will be the time to consider lifting the moratorium."

In the city's midyear budget adjustments, 37 already vacant positions were eliminated from payroll, city Finance Director Craig Freeman said. During the recent 2010-2011 fiscal year budgeting process, 99 more positions were eliminated.

Councilman Pat Ryan said that although city sales tax revenues have improved, they cannot be trusted to remain steady in the current economy, so lifting the ban would be premature. And Councilwoman Meg Salyer said the moratorium should be eliminated only when City Manager Jim Couch allows city staff to travel.

Kelly said he wanted to know how many jobs would have been funded by the money saved under the moratorium.

According to a public records request by The Journal Record, the City Council spent $6,687 on travel-related expenses during fiscal year 2010-2011. That compares with $27,155 the year before and $26,222 in fiscal year 2008-2009, or an annual savings during the moratorium of about $20,000.

Freeman confirmed Wednesday that's not enough to pay any full- time position on the city staff. The savings might cover a part- time position at most, he said.

"We're not being statesmen and leaders when we don't do the job that is necessary for the best interests of the city," Kelly said. …

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