City Council Reviews Tulsa Budget, Public Safety, Arts Discussed

Thursday, May 8th 2014, 6:19 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa city council started its public review of the mayor's proposed budget Thursday. Public safety dollars were discussed, but what to do with the Park's Department arts budget was also a big topic.

The council hopes to save the Henthorne Performing Arts Center, but they also had a lot of questions about a sign, showing plans to redo the roof and air conditioning, while the city considers closing down the only program that uses the building.

Tulsa City Councilors are digging into the details of Mayor Dewey Bartlett's budget, and while they don't like to see cuts in fire or police, they also want to save arts programs.

5/2/2014 Related Story: 188 Vacant Positions Eliminated, 27 Layoffs In Proposed 2015 Tulsa Budget

Those three departments are taking $3 million in cuts, after years of dwindling budgets.

The council has no quick answers about how to pay for all for it.

"If I get something, somebody else is going to get cut, it's that simple and those are things people in the community wants as well," said Chief Chuck Jordan with the Tulsa Police.

The proposed budget would eliminate $420,000 for city funded arts programs, including the staff at the Henthorne Performing Arts Center.

5/6/2014 Related Story: New Tulsa Budget Forces Cuts To Performing Arts

It's what's left of two larger and distinct programs that were consolidated to save money, but which remain booked solid with adult and children's programs.

The Parks Department insists they'd like to save the program, and regardless, they'd like to save the building, which is why they want to go ahead with plans to fix the roof and air conditioning.

Dwain Midget, with the City of Tulsa, said, "Unless you are looking to demo that building, or let it go into disrepair, you want to try and maintain it, and again, we want to try and find a partner to continue the programs there for adults and the youth."

In the same meeting where cuts to the Arts were criticized, the police chief said his department is getting smaller while the need for police officers is growing.

"I don't think there is any reason to panic, I think there's concern for the future, because what we do today will impact our crime rate will be a year and a half from now, we know that from history," Jordan said.

Without new hires, the police department gets smaller by 18 officers each year.

As for Henthorne, the council wants numbers on moving the program elsewhere, and is asking the Parks Department to hold off working on the building until the budget is a little clearer.

There is a plan to demolish the pool, but that's been in the works a long time.