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Tulsa Mayor: City Could Have Averted Layoffs

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Mayor Kathy Taylor says the city of Tulsa could have avoided layoffs if the budget was based on property taxes. Mayor Kathy Taylor says the city of Tulsa could have avoided layoffs if the budget was based on property taxes.
"We rely on a volatile, regressive source, and as long as we do that, this management team or future management teams are going to be spending their time figuring out how to cut whenever there's a hiccup in the economy," Mayor Kathy Taylor said Tuesday. "We rely on a volatile, regressive source, and as long as we do that, this management team or future management teams are going to be spending their time figuring out how to cut whenever there's a hiccup in the economy," Mayor Kathy Taylor said Tuesday.
"When economic times aren't as good, we don't have as big a downturn as a municipality might with sales tax revenues dropping," said John Smaligo, Tulsa County Commissioner. "When economic times aren't as good, we don't have as big a downturn as a municipality might with sales tax revenues dropping," said John Smaligo, Tulsa County Commissioner.
By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Thirty-seven city of Tulsa employees are being laid off, as Tulsa slashes $6 million from the budget. Those layoffs have hit all levels of city government.

Mayor Kathy Taylor says this entire crisis could have been averted. She says it goes back to how the city gets its money. Taylor says the city could have avoided the layoffs if the budget was based on property taxes.

But would that work?

On Tuesday, Mayor Taylor announced that a budget shortfall meant 37 employees, including 21 police officers, would have to be laid off and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses would be cut. Taylor placed the blame on Tulsa's reliance on sales tax, which is down during the recession.

10/27/2009  Related Story: Thirty-Seven Tulsa City Employees Get Pink Slips

"We rely on a volatile, regressive source, and as long as we do that, this management team or future management teams are going to be spending their time figuring out how to cut whenever there's a hiccup in the economy," Mayor Kathy Taylor said Tuesday.

On the other hand, Tulsa County already uses property tax revenue for its general fund, and has not laid off any employees. County Commissioner John Smaligo says sales tax revenue does provide more of a boost during boom times, but Tulsa County has fewer problems handling busts.

"When economic times aren't as good, we don't have as big a downturn as a municipality might with sales tax revenues dropping," said John Smaligo, Tulsa County Commissioner.

It's not like the city of Tulsa isn't getting any money from property tax, it is. In fact, it's getting millions of dollars, but the state constitution says that money cannot be used to fund city budgets.

"If you live inside the city limits of Tulsa, you actually send more property tax to the city of Tulsa than you do to Tulsa County for government operations," said Smaligo.

But the city can only use property tax revenue for bond issues and judgments. So unless the state constitution is changed, that will mean tough decisions during tough times.

Mayor Taylor says if the city used property tax money, it would have seen a 4 percent increase in revenue this year, instead of a two and a half percent decrease. But Commissioner Smaligo points out that a change would mean a significant property tax increase for most residents.

 

 

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