Lower Gas Prices, Higher Sales Tax Revenue Help Tulsa City Budget

Thursday, January 15th 2015, 1:39 pm

The City of Tulsa budget is on the upswing with more tax money coming in and less money for gasoline going out.

The turnaround could speed up hiring at the police department.

The city budgeted for gas at $3 a gallon, and it appears people saving on gas are spending more elsewhere. That's paying off for the city.

The changing price of gasoline is saving the city of Tulsa millions of dollars.

The city buys 2.3 million gallons of fuel a year, both gasoline and diesel, but planned on gas for one, being almost twice the current price.

The city finance director, Mike Kier, said Tulsa's budget is good enough to start spending again.

"I think the way we'd look at it, is that we're starting the July academy early," Kier said.

The council wants to get more police officers hired, so a summer academy could be moved up to March and expanded to include more recruits.

The falling gas prices could pay off for the city another way according to Tulsa City Councilor, David Patrick.

"You're saving $30 to $40 in gas every week for gas you're not buying, but you're taking that money and spending it on things that generate sales tax, and that helps the city," Patrick said.

The City has collected $2 million more in sales tax than expected this budget year and figures it will save $1.5 million on fuel.

The short term looks positive, but there's concern about the long term impact of gas prices if companies layoff employees and stop spending.

“If the revenue isn't good for the oil and gas industry, they're going to be pretty cautious with their spending,” said Tulsa City Manager, Jim Twombly.

Even though the city is saving some and earning more; it is being offset some by higher costs for repairs on city cars and trucks.

Still, the trends are good enough to give city leaders the confidence to start looking at new spending.

The mayor and council decided last year where to spend any extra money that came in; small raises were first, more police will be second.