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Tulsa's next mayor faces budget shortfall

The money crunch at Tulsa’s city hall. The mayor's office says the numbers look worse now than they did in January.

News on Six reporter Emory Bryan says the current mayor is asking city department heads for deeper cuts to make the budget balance by the end of the year. It’s a race to find $15-million in savings by July 1st.

When mayor-elect Bill LaFortune takes office, he'll have three months to make a budget for next year - but he'll first have to balance the budget for this financial year, which ends June 30th. In January, the city projected an $11-million budget shortfall. Today, the projection is $15 million. "You have to approach it just like if you were running a business in the private sector." And LaFortune says trimming the fat probably won't be enough to balance the budget. "Whether or not the savings and surplus you're able to create is enough to meet the shortfall is another matter."

LaFortune says he'll try to avoid cuts for public safety services like police and fire. He's against a proposed rate increase for trash, sewer and water, but says it may be needed to bring in more money for the city.

The current mayor, Susan Savage, has ordered a freeze on expenses - with no new hires, no promotions and no unnecessary travel. David Patrick, (D) Councilor elect: “I'm eager to get in and see what I can do to help.” Patrick has served on the council before, in better times. "Coming up with solutions for the next year or two, that's easy compared to the current cost reduction." The city has managed budget crunches before by cutting some services and raising utility rates.

The challenge for the next mayor is to stick to a pledge of making the city rely on existing revenues - while protecting the services that people rely on.
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