Tulsa Police To Get Pay Raise After City Loses Contract Battle

Tuesday, May 20th 2014, 7:36 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The city of Tulsa lost a contract dispute with the police officer's union, meaning some officers will get a raise the mayor says the city can't afford.

The decision came out of arbitration after talks between the city and the union broke down. The mayor says it's simple; everything else at the city will have to be cut so police officers can get raises.

"And that's on the back of everybody else. The non-sworn employees of the city are having to take a financial hit because of decisions like this," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.

The police union believes the decision is best for officers and the city.

Sergeant Clay Ballenger, with the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, said, "It's about priorities, is taking care of employees a priority? We think it ought to be and it goes hand in hand with hiring more officers and getting them out on the street."

The city has to negotiate with the union every year on a contract, but this year, the talks were stalled over money and whether the city had enough to pay the routine raise that officers get with another year of experience.

The talks broke down and the case was settled with binding arbitration.

"We've never had to fight over these increases based on performance in the history of the Tulsa Police Department, we've had disagreements, but we've never had to fight over them before," Ballenger said.

The city's final offer for the contract was no actual raise, just a one-time bonus, this year only.

It would have cost the city $570,000 this year. The union wanted a three percent raise that would cost $500,000 this budget year.

Bartlett said the raises were in the budget this year, but next year will cost $1 million in a budget that's already being slashed.

"They feel it's more important for their police officers to have a raise rather than the financial realities of the city of Tulsa," said Bartlett.

Another contract starts in July; that's in negotiations now, but the raise officers got through arbitration is considered the starting point.