Tulsa Councilors Discuss Budget, 911 Call Center

Thursday, May 12th 2016, 6:55 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The City of Tulsa plans to eliminate positions at the 911 call center, just after voters approved a tax to hire more dispatchers.

Both cutbacks and hiring are on the way.

The Vision money won't come in until January, and until then, the city is cutting costs.

But in the strange world of government budgeting - it's possible to make cuts and not cut anybody.

The Tulsa City Council wanted someone explain why the city plans to hire dispatchers next January, but get rid of dispatcher jobs this July.

“Our intent is to add additional forces...” city councilor Karen Gilbert said.

Gilbert championed the public safety Vision tax that will pay for 16 new dispatchers.

But the new budget calls for eliminating 15 positions now.

"How are we improving services to the citizens of Tulsa when we're deleting positions?" Gilbert said.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the positions being cut are really empty slots the city hasn't been able to fill.

The shortage of people is what's led to extended waits for 911, so Jordan says the cutback won't change the service.

"I don't see a dramatic impact of the elimination,” Jordan said.

The director of the 911 center said she has 63 employees who answer phones.

They can handle 11 calls at a time.

An accidental dial from a cell phone happens 1 in 5 times - so to cut demand - the city hopes to educate people how to prevent those calls.

At the same time, new cell phone fees will increase funding, but not in time to hire people before January.

"Those positions will rematerialize and we will hire when the budget improves,” 911 Center Director Terry O’Malley said.