Tulsa mayor says no to recommended public safety tax
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
12/11/12 at 7:18 AM
View the Public Safety Task Force’s report.
Find all the stories from Staff Writers Brian Barber and Kevin Canfield about city
government in Tulsa.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said Monday he's not interested in considering a Tulsa public safety tax, despite a task force's recommendation.
"Certainly not at this time," he said. "I'd feel much more comfortable looking at efficiencies that can be made, resource allocations and slowly growing our manpower as we can afford to do so."
A citizen-led Public Safety Task Force, created earlier this year by the mayor and the City Council, recommended in a presentation recently that dedicated, alternative funding sources should be studied.
"This could be a public safety tax, millage or some funding source that would relieve the dependency on volatile sales-tax revenue," said Carol Bush, who was chairwoman of the task force and is the Crime Commission's executive director.
An investment in public safety would help Tulsa in numerous ways, she said, citing business development, population growth and quality-of-life improvement.
"Making Tulsa a safer place to live, work and play would make this a more livable city," Bush said.
Bush noted in her presentation that increased staffing levels in the city's Police and Fire departments and 911 are needed to meet the national average for a city of this size.
Tulsa has 780 police officers and needs 830, has 676 firefighters and needs 824 and has 98 emergency operators but needs 130, she said.
Public safety requires a much more stable revenue stream than having to fight with other city departments over the same pot of money, particularly during economic downturns, Bush said.
"We know what needs to be done, and it requires more funding," she said to the Tulsa World after the presentation, adding that other cities have implored a variety of funding methods that could be explored beyond implementing a simple public safety tax.
Council Chairman David Patrick said Monday he agrees that other options need to be at least looked at.
"To keep increasing the public safety departments without new funding sources, you have to take it away from somewhere else," he said. "That's getting tougher and tougher to do. There ought to be some discussions about that."
The last serious effort for a public safety tax was in the spring of 2010 by Councilor Jack Henderson, who couldn't get enough council support to put his 1-cent proposal on a public ballot.
It would have raised an extra $66 million for public safety needs. Oklahoma City has a similar tax in place.
But Bartlett said spending more money in a particular area is not necessarily the right way to go.
"I don't think it would be a prudent use of taxpayer dollars," he said.
Great strides already have been made through efficiency reviews of the police, fire and 911 areas, the mayor said.
Since the 2008-2009 recession, there have been regular police and fire academies to return manpower to previous levels and grow them beyond, Bartlett said. Also, more 911 operators have been hired.
"We are improving our situation, but in a reasonable and methodical manner," he said.
"We are steadily increasing the police officers in the field and decreasing the rate of crime in the city, so both are going in the right direction."
Original Print Headline: Mayor says no safety tax
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Mayor Dewey Bartlett: He says he's not interested in considering a public safety tax "at this time."
Carol Bush: "We know what needs to be done, and it requires more funding."