Mayor's budget proposal is largest in Tulsa history at $703.1 million but without employee raises
BY P.J. LASSEK & BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writers
Friday, April 27, 2012
5/04/12 at 1:29 PM
Read the mayor’s budget speech to the City Council.
Read the budget transmittal letter.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett on Thursday turned over to the City Council the largest budget proposal in Tulsa's history, totaling $703.1 million in operating and capital expenses.
"This budget request reflects both the priorities of our citizens and the shared vision and goals of our elected officials," he said during his evening budget presentation to councilors.
"It is a true collaborative effort. This shall be named 'The Budget of Collaboration.' "
The operating budget is $589.8 million, up 3 percent from the current fiscal year, while the capital budget is $113.3 million, up 55 percent, largely because of the Fix Our Streets initiative.
Among the budget's highlights are one police academy of 40, training for 40 new reserve police officers, the hiring of 23 new firefighters, utility rate increases and a first deposit of $2 million into the city's newly created rainy day fund.
The budget reflects no employee raises, but the mayor left open the possibility of modest increases depending on union negotiations.
By City Charter, councilors must now review, tweak and adopt a budget before the start of the new fiscal year July 1.
Public safety: Bartlett stressed his commitment to continuing to strengthen police and fire manpower while highlighting the need to absorb salaries that previously were paid with grants.
In recent years, 95 police officers, six crime analysts and 46 firefighters have been hired with federal grants, and now the time is coming for the city to pay for their salaries out of its general fund.
That is a $2 million budget impact for the coming fiscal year and totals $8.6 million over the next five years.
"We knew the day of reckoning for receiving these grants would eventually come, and here it is," the mayor said.
Still, a 40-member police academy class will start this summer, paid for out of the coming budget, to keep up with retirements and build the forces, he said.
No new fire academy is included in the budget because an academy of 23 recruits will be graduating at the end of June. The budget includes money for the hiring of those new firefighters in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Additional police and fire academies are possible for later in the fiscal year if projected revenues hold up, Bartlett said.
To help with police duties, $214,000 is budgeted to train 40 new volunteer police reserves, he said.
Utilities: The proposed budget includes a water rate increase of 7 percent to continue to maintain the city's system as demand increases and 9 percent for sewer to pay for debt service and capital improvements.
The monthly increase for the average customer would be $3.74 and would go into effect Oct. 1. Stormwater fees would remain the same.
The rate changes are the same as projected in the last year's five-year rate model.
Meanwhile, residential trash rates will be based on the options households choose under the new volume-based system.
Different sizes of carts, as well as curbside or backyard and once-a-week or twice-a-week collection options, will be offered.
Rates would change Oct. 1, when the new system is launched.
Salaries: The city's payroll for roughly 3,800 employees encompasses 71 percent of the operating budget, which includes a 4.25 percent increase in health insurance costs.
The mayor's administration is negotiating with all of the unions on contracts for the next fiscal year. Bartlett indicated that the budget "would allow for a very modest compensation improvement."
How the union negotiations turn out will affect whether nonunion employees see raises, he said.
Quality of life: The mayor highlighted several priorities that received attention with the current budget that are continued in his proposed spending plan.
Those include enhancing code enforcement, demolishing dilapidated structures, increasing mowing cycles, opening five public pools, dedicating resources for graffiti removal, stocking adequate salt supplies for icy roads and replacing fleet vehicles with CNG models.
The Parks Department also will see the return of employees who had been reassigned to what was the Public Works Department.
"Citizens deserve to have great recreational opportunity, to enjoy parks, to get out and feel the grass," Bartlett told the press after the presentation.
Economic outlook: The budget is based on achieving 3.7 percent growth in sales-tax revenue - up from 2.5 percent this fiscal year. Bartlett called that "decent growth."
Yet the mayor urged caution, citing the uncertainty with major employers American Airlines and the U.S. Postal Service's local distribution facility, the state's economy and federal health-care reform.
"Even though our receipts are up, we don't want to get carried away with the moment and throw caution to the wind," Bartlett said.
"Past spending decisions based upon a moment in time, rather than realistic projections, have given us heartburn. We must remain vigilant and conservative with this budget."
Councilor Tom Mansur, the only councilor to speak, thanked the mayor for his "positive approach."
"When I came on board, I think there was a prevailing notion of skepticism, and I've been very pleased with the performance of your staff," he said. "I appreciate that you have made some correlation between the efforts that you and the council undertook a few months ago."
Bartlett told the media he wants the public to know the city is in good shape financially "and that we're husbanding their tax dollars very well."
The council will evaluate the budget and offer some changes, he said, "and we'll go back and forth, but at the end of the day, I know we will come up with something that is very agreeable and in the best interest of all parties, and we'll go down the road together."
By the numbers
Finance officials project that $10.8 million in the fund balance will be left from the current fiscal year to be used for one-time expenses
System software for 311 call center: $1.13 million.
Automated payroll: $1.47 million
Employee pension contribution: $1.6 million
Intermodal transportation study: $150,000 matching funds
Bridges of Faith to One Tulsa summer youth program: $76,000
Citywide mobile phone application: $40,000
Human Resources employee classification and compensation study: $325,000
Source: City of Tulsa
Original Print Headline: Mayor presents budget proposal of $703.1 million
P.J. Lassek 918-581-8382 Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Jarrod Moore, a City of Tulsa employee, distributes copies of Mayor Dewey Bartlett's budget proposal at City Hall in Tulsa on Thursday. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World