Tulsa Downtown: June 2012 Archives

Boondoggle Blog's Don Wyatt has posted audio of the Tulsa County Budget Board meeting on June 7, 2012.

The Budget Board is made up of the three county commissioners and the five county-wide elected officials: Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk, Court Clerk, and Sheriff. (Although our District Attorney serves only Tulsa County, most DA districts are multi-county, and the office is considered a state, not county, office.)

Wyatt argued very politely, from the law and from the principle of transparency, that the budget being considered by the board should cover more than the roughly $66 million general fund. Another citizen, Naomi Koehn, urged allocating more money to public safety in order to retain sheriff's deputies.

Wyatt said that it seemed to him that the budget as it is, underrepresents the scope of county operations. He compared the $64 million in last year's budget to the amount listed in the Excise Board Appropriated Funds Report and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, issued following the close of each fiscal year, that puts county spending at roughly $256 to $258 million. Wyatt said it was arguable that the county should go a step further and include in the budget all ad valorem taxes, upwards of $600 million. (I'd go yet another step and include revenues and expenditures of the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, and the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, and any other county authority handling public money.)

Wyatt pointed out that Oklahoma County's budget is three times bigger than Tulsa County's and includes revenues that Tulsa County excludes -- beginning fund balances (money not spent in the previous year) and special revenues such as federal grants, inmate boarding fees from the state and municipalities, and resale properties. The FY 2011-2012 Oklahoma County budget covers $166.5 million, although the general fund revenues are only $67.8 million, slightly higher than Tulsa County's equivalent figure.

Wyatt also noted a disconnect between the number of employees listed in the budget and the general fund. For example, the sheriff's office budget request is $9.1 million, but the sheriff's office has over 600 employees. That works out to about $15,000 per employee, and obviously that isn't all the revenue the sheriff has available to pay his people and cover other expenses. Sheriff Stanley Glanz said that they used to include other revenues in the budget.

The comment is made -- although at the moment I can't find it again -- that the budget board can't reallocate surplus funds belonging to one of the elected officials. Once money has been allocated to a county official's fiefdom, that official has complete discretion to spend any surplus, and the budget board has no power to reallocate those funds toward more urgent needs. If that's the case, that's yet another example of the lack of checks and balances built into Oklahoma's one-size-fits-all model of county government.

MORE: Further on in the tape, starting about 1:10, there's a discussion of the city's stadium district assessment on county-owned properties, and whether the county budget board ought to protest the assessment. (The general sentiment is to allow big private landowners to carry the water and make the case for a smaller increase in the downtown authority's budget.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Downtown category from June 2012.

Tulsa Downtown: May 2012 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Downtown: October 2012 is the next archive.

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