Tulsa City Manager: $3 Million Budget Shortfall May Mean Cuts

Friday, October 4th 2013, 6:19 pm

The City of Tulsa is facing an estimated budget shortfall this year of over $3 million. It's because the city isn't bringing in as much sale tax income as expected.

That figure is for the year that ends next June, so there's time to balance this out, but considering that 70 cents of every dollar the city gets comes from sales tax, so when it drops, it can mean big problems.

At City Hall, there are signs of trouble in the budget, because sales tax is down below what the number crunchers were counting on.

Three months into the budget year, the city's income is trending down.

"We're just kind of taking it month-by-month. This is something that's happening statewide; if you look at other cities and the state, they've been soft this entire calendar year," said City Manager Jim Twombly.

The city lives on sales tax, and Tulsa's sales tax income is actually up since last year by 1.1 percent. But compared to the budget, it's 4.2 percent below expectations.

The latest numbers for September show the city collected just over $18,269,000. Compared to September of last year, that's down by 3 percent. Compared to the budget, it's 8 percent below what the city expected.

It's nowhere near the big plunge of 2009 and 2010 that prompted furloughs and layoffs to save money, but if the trend doesn't change, they could be on the table.

The city manager is hoping smaller changes now will prevent bigger cuts later.

"I would hesitate to talk about furloughs, yet," Twombly said. "That's one of the things in the toolbox, and it's been used by the city in the past. Our next thing will be to talk with department heads to see what they can do to reduce expenses."

The problem is the biggest expense is salaries, so you can't cut very deep without impacting people. The administration is working up a plan they hope to give the city council in two weeks.