Mayor's budget approved 5-4

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Tonight the Tulsa City Council approved Mayor Kathy Taylor's budget by a vote of 5-4. The budget reflects deep cuts due to falling revenues and includes mandatory unpaid furloughs for city employees.

The four councilors who voted against Taylor's budget supported an alternative by Councilor Bill Martinson. Before your knee jerks and you assume Martinson was motivated by sheer partisanship, head over to Councilor John Eagleton's website and download Martinson's budget presentation. It's an 8 MB PowerPoint file, but it's eye-opening and worth the trouble. (For number crunchers, the raw numbers behind the charts and graphs are embedded in the PowerPoint file.)

The presentation highlights the growth of Police and Fire Departments' share of the budget over the last 40 years, during which time the police and fire budget has more than tripled in constant dollars, while land area and population have grown by 13% and 17% respectively. So even if you had expected the police and fire budget to grow proportionately to population and land area and in line with inflation, the current budget is two-and-a-half times bigger than you would expect based on those factors.

Over the same 40 year period, police and fire personnel have only grown from 1,151 to 1,612, only about a 50% increase, despite the inflation-adjusted tripling of the budget.

In 1968-9, police and fire (including capital equipment) made up 32% of the General Fund. In 2008-9, police and fire (excluding capital equipment, which is now paid for from the Third Penny fund) makes up 57% of the General Fund.

Here's another way to look at it: In the current fiscal year (2008-9), the first two cents of the sales tax, which goes to the General Fund, were budgeted to bring in $142.8 million in revenue. The Police and Fire Departments budget for 2008-9: $142.8 million.

The problem isn't payroll, evidently: From 1999-2000 to the budget for 2009-2010, the police and fire budget grew by 35% (not adjusted for inflation) while the number of employees shrank from 1660 to 1597.

What about the City's many other areas of responsibility -- neighborhood inspections, parks and recreation, internal auditing, the legal department, human resources? Martinson provides several examples where a department has increased its revenues while cutting expenses, effectively, as Martinson puts it, "donat[ing] revenue to the Police and Fire Departments."

According to Martinson, Taylor's budget, revised for new, lower revenue forecasts, would put the combined police and fire budget at 105.23% of the projected General Fund sales tax revenue. Martinson proposes cutting that number and restoring $3.9 million in funding for materials for keeping our roads drivable (salt, sand, concrete, and aggregate), nuisance abatement, animal welfare, mowing, security and recreation programs for public housing, and other basic purposes.

Go read the whole thing, and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Via e-mail, Councilor G. T. Bynum provides some perspective on Martinson's presentation and his vote in favor of Taylor's budget:

I thought Bill's analysis was pretty powerful when it came to the increase in funding not equating to an increase in manpower. At the same time, under our contracts we can't reduce salaries/benefits so the result of his proposal would have been to lay off 20% of our police and firefighting forces. That was too much for me.

In a later e-mail, Bynum wrote, "Whomever negotiates our next round of contracts needs to do a better job of protecting the City's flexibility."

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7 Comments

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

That's a pretty compelling slide show.

I remember more police being a critical issue in years past, and before I stopped listening to KFAQ (mid MDG), if I remember correctly, more police was one of the issues that always raised the needle on the decibel meter. I believe that the issues were adding new police and severe attitudes to the effect that the police academy didn't have enough candidates.

The fire part of that makes sense, if you think about how much better houses are build these days, and it's almost unheard of not to have a smoke alarm in the house these days.

It also lends support to the idea that a little education is better than a misinformed political platform.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

That's a pretty compelling slide show.

I remember more police being a critical issue in years past, and before I stopped listening to KFAQ (mid MDG), if I remember correctly, more police was one of the issues that always raised the needle on the decibel meter. I believe that the issues were adding new police and severe attitudes to the effect that the police academy didn't have enough candidates.

The fire part of that makes sense, if you think about how much better houses are build these days, and it's almost unheard of not to have a smoke alarm in the house these days.

It also lends support to the idea that a little education is better than a misinformed political platform.

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

With some awesome number-crunching and reality check like that, Martinson WILL lose, if he runs for Mayor. He maybe right, but, he's spiking sacred cows. Watch for the t-whirl kabosh soon. He's right OUTTA there, just like Judge Crawford.

Martinson: Medlock with REAL brains, sans the narcissistic blowhardishness. All the usual respectable electable GOB suspects will play dumb and simply glad-hand their masters and the rest of us chumps....again. Who you gonna endorse this time, Bates?

Hey, if ya can't sell sex, sell FEAR. And, if ya can't sell bikes, sell SEX!

Dave Bell said:

David Patrick's Son is a Tulsa Fire Department Captain. Councilor Patrick should have excluded himself from the vote tonight. Does the word "Nepotism" fit here? Deirdre Dexter will rule its not, but she always says what the Mayor wants her to say. Councilor Patrick is looking after his Son's interest! I usually don't agree with Councilor Martinson, but he was right on the money tonight with his survey and evaluation of TPD and TFD, especially TPD. They have lost credibility with the Citizens in north East Tulsa where we need them more then most south Neighborhoods. They don't answer "All" the calls that Major Williams says they will answer either. Why are some of you Councilors so afraid to stand up to the FOP and Firefighter's Unions? We pay the Police more and more and get less and less. If TPD was made to furlough the same as the rest of City employees we would not see a difference in North Tulsa. You are now allowing TPD to drive City vehicles out of the City to there homes, do they have permission to do that or not? Or are they make up there own rules now? We pay them too much Money and feel the Tulsa Police put there interest first, not the public. We know some of you Councilors also put your interest and or the Mayors and her boss's interest first before the Citizens. We feel TPD is out of control with all the pay and benefits. You help them maintain the same blackmail again tonight by ripping money from most other Departments and giving it to TPD, there are other Departments that are needed, like Code Enforcement. We are paying you Councilors too much also for selfish spending and stupid decisions. On another note, Bynum hitting the desk harder tonight then Representative Eric Proctor did on the 10 N Yale and Bynum called Eric a "Jerk" for doing it......He is the nerd jerk! Some of you Councilors are the Mayors puppets, what ever she and her boss wants you give them. Stop giving away our money to People that don't earn it.

Dave Bell

David V Author Profile Page said:

At least we know Martinson has some guts.

Not only did he dare to take on the Mayor; he took on the TPD & TFD.

He did it at the right time, too. His political capital has never been higher. He showed the fresh independant perspective that the district representatives were suppose to bring to city govt.

He was well-prepared. He had the kind of numbers crunched that made a thought-provoking reassessment (for those who still have the courage to think for themselves).

When Martinson was first elected I thought he was part of the conspiracy to break the "gang of 5". Maybe he was the midtown blue-blood's candidate back then.

He seems to be standing alone, at times now.

moogle Author Profile Page said:

Martinson demonstrated he is blessed with a remarkable inability to see the big picture.

I'll grant that unions might be partially responsible for this disparate increase in police cost, but I propose that a much greater responsibility rests with the propensity of the Democrat party to encourage and reward people for being worthless losers -- the foundation of LBJ's Great Society. In fact, single women can make that a career choice if they don't mind going to the trouble of dumping out some illegitimate kids.

Couple that with property developers using their control over city government to get apartment complexes built to house these trolls and HUD's requirement that these crime hives be spread throughout the city, and the result is a dramatic increase in the cost of controlling crime while higher wage earners head out to the burbs to get away from it. (Lookin' forward to when white women achieve a 70 percent rate of illegitimacy. Get ready to spend more on crime control -- a lot more.)

With bird-brained, tunnel vision councilors like Martinson around in the presence of savvy mayors who function as operatives of the powers that be, it's little wonder Tulsa is slip sliding away while its budget is busting and the burbs are doing quite well.

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

This sounds a lot like somebody spent way too much money and is looking for a scapegoat to blame the budget problems on. Maybe they want to cut the personnel costs so they can buy a third city hall building. Word on the street says Tulsa has still not achieved universal recognition as a World Class City. Dang it. Perhaps the purchase of a third city hall building will fix that.

The thing that really concerns me is that it has been a while since local taxpayers have been hit up for a tax increase to do something "for the children." I figure that has to be right around the corner.

I saw a recent survey that said it is unlikely Americans will return to their previous level of consumerism after the economy gets better ... for the short time it gets better ... before the federal deficit drags it all back down again. So don't expect those city sales tax revenues to come roaring back.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 19, 2009 1:20 AM.

Wanda Jackson, Hot Club of Cowtown, Red Dirt Rangers at Cain's Ballroom was the previous entry in this blog.

FOP responds to Martinson is the next entry in this blog.

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