Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Budget Cuts Spare Public Safety

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Budget Cuts Spare Public Safety

Article excerpt

Facing an $8 million shortfall, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. proposed a budget that cuts funding for all segments of the city except public safety.

The fiscal year 2015 budget for the general fund is $260.4 million, a decrease of $5.4 million, or 2.7 percent, from the current budget. Public safety received the largest allocation of resources, 61 percent of the budget, up from 56 percent two years ago and 59 percent this year, Bartlett said.

"It is clear that we need to do more for public safety, and it cannot always be at the expense of other departments," Bartlett said. "We need to introduce new revenue into the picture."

Reductions for city departments varied, with the biggest cuts at 17 percent. The exceptions were in police, fire, legal, City Council, human resources and the Gilcrease Museum, city officials said.

The total budget is $673 million, which is $28.8 million, or 4.1 percent less than the current budget, said Mike Kier, city finance director.

"The operating budget, which handles the day-to-day activities of the city, is down 0.1 percent, to $593.2 million," Kier said. "It represents a decrease of $600,000 compared to this year."

The capital budget, which covers streets and sewers, for example, is $79.8 million, which is $28.2 million, or 26 percent less than this year's budget.

"The budget I am proposing has minimal impact on public safety," Bartlett told the councilors. "Unfortunately, we were not able to apply more efficient management techniques in the fire and police departments due to the constraints of the union contracts with the police and fire unions."

The current number of firefighters on the street is 665, which 11 fewer than the 676 authorized positions, according to city figures. The number includes a current cadet class.

The number of police officers in the city is 772, which is 11 below the authorized number of 783. Another 14 cadets have begun a training academy.

The balance of the city departments shouldered the majority of the financial stress, Bartlett said.

"Citizens experienced an impact in services as a result of staffing shortages, and you can expect to see it continue in the coming fiscal year," Bartlett said. …

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