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Did Overspending Lead To City Of Tulsa Layoffs?

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City leaders say Tulsa would have had a shortfall with or without expensive projects like the new City Hall. City leaders say Tulsa would have had a shortfall with or without expensive projects like the new City Hall.
No general fund revenues have been used in building ONEOK Field. No general fund revenues have been used in building ONEOK Field.
The BOK Center actually adds a small amount of money to the city's coffers, according to its finance director. The BOK Center actually adds a small amount of money to the city's coffers, according to its finance director.

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa laid off 37 employees on Tuesday and slashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. Some citizens are wondering if expensive developments like ONEOK Field and the BOK Center are to blame for the revenue problems.

The simple response from the city is no.

City leaders say Tulsa would have had a shortfall with or without these projects.

As soon as this drastic round of cuts was announced Tuesday, it was one of the first questions that popped into many people's minds.

Why are we spending all this money on a ball field, and why are we spending all the money on moving City Hall if we can't afford to keep officers, and who's going to guard those places?

"Great question," said Mayor Kathy Taylor. "No general fund revenues are being used for the ballpark at all. Fifty percent of that is private donations."

Related Story 10/28/2009: Tulsa Cuts Impact Every City Department, Including Mayor's Office

Related Story 10/28/2009: Tulsa Mayor: City Could Have Averted Layoffs

That's true. Half the cash for ONEOK Field came from private donors, the other 50% from a special tax on downtown businesses.

None of the money comes from the general fund.

Then there was the move to One Technology Center last year.

The city says that was funded by rent it collects from private companies who are leasing vacated city property. As for operating costs, the city says they are the same at One Technology Center as they were at the old City Hall.

Finally, there's the year-old BOK Center. The arena was funded by tax revenue from Vision 2025.

Because Tulsa's budget is funded by sales tax, officials say ticket sales at the BOK have actually softened this blow.

"Those projects are not creating the difficulties we're having to deal with, said Finance Director Mike Kier. "The BOK Center has been slightly helpful in that regard."        

But as Tulsa continues to build while slashing jobs, officials admit it may be tough for financial reality to overcome public perception.

The city of Tulsa continues to place the blame for these cuts on a system that requires it to use sales tax revenue to pay salaries. City officials say it makes cuts like these difficult to avoid during recessions.

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