Budget-busting Vision Tulsa: "We should have thought through better"

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The City Council and the Mayor didn't need to put Vision Tulsa on a special April ballot. The Vision 2025 tax doesn't expire until December 31. They had plenty of time to perform due diligence, get solid estimates, consider consequences and hidden costs, but they wanted it on a low-turnout election date, and it was all about getting approval for the dams.

Now we're learning about some of those hidden costs and our dear sweet city councilors are expressing regrets. Jarrel Wade reports in the Tulsa World:

City officials gave city councilors details Thursday on millions of dollars the city eventually will need to support the hiring of additional police officers and firefighters with Vision Tulsa money.

Adding more than 160 police officers and 65 firefighters to the public-safety ranks will require direct support from other city departments, including information technology, human resources, asset management and medical.

IT Department costs alone for the technology involved in policing will run about $645,000 per year, city officials estimated.

All told, the estimated cost of supporting the additional staff eventually will reach almost $2 million per year that wasn't specifically added to Vision Tulsa's public safety permanent tax.

But it's OK, because we won't hire all those officers overnight, so it'll be a while before those support costs will be realized.

Paying for it out of the tax proceeds would mean less money to hire police officers and firefighters. But finding the money in the city's general fund would mean more burden on already restricted funding for other departments -- a burden that the public-safety tax was designed to alleviate.

But it's OK because the councilors are really, really sorry they rushed this to a ballot before analyzing the costs.

[Councilor Phil] Lakin and Councilor Anna America said they regret that the support costs of the public-safety tax weren't specifically built into the package.

"We should have thought through better, earlier, and said, 'Hey, let's make sure we accommodate this,'‚ÄČ" America said, saying Thursday's report is a lesson for future packages.

"No funding package should go through without this kind of analysis happening first and making sure that we accommodate that in the funding package."

I believe I said something like that, very early in the process:

Not only is the proposed package far from a cohesive vision, but the Basis of Estimate (BoE) -- the details that justify the amount budgeted -- for each item is dreadfully inadequate. There's reason to believe that the estimates are way off, which means that some ideas that could be funded won't be, and other ideas will be promised (like the low-water dams in Vision 2025, or the juvenile justice facililty in Four to Fix the County) and attract votes, but won't have any possibility of being built without going back to the voters for more money....

The better path would be for the Council to whittle down the list and propose a shorter-term (five years, max), pay-as-you-go (no "advanced funding" line item for interest and bond fees) sales tax that funded only those items that were of general public benefit and had been thoroughly vetted for feasibility and an accurate estimate of cost.

Dear Councilors Lakin and America: Be grown-ups, take responsibility for your failure to do your job, and resign.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 12, 2016 12:49 AM.

Jim Bridenstine endorses Amanda Teegarden, Joe Newhouse in state senate runoffs was the previous entry in this blog.

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