City Of Tulsa Budget Battle Over Interpretation Of The Same Numbers

Tuesday, August 17th 2010, 5:21 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The budget battle at Tulsa's City Hall is now down to different interpretations of the same numbers. The mayor says the city still needs to be cautious with spending, but the city council believes the mayor is ignoring good news about city finances.

"We ended the year about $6.5 million better than expected," said Jack Blair, Council Policy Analyst.

Read the Budget Status

It's numbers like that the city council believes is justification for increased spending. They are criticizing Mayor Dewey Bartlett over slowing down spending on their priorities.

"Yes, we need to be cautious, but we don't need to spread this gloom and doom that things could turn south in a heartbeat and we could really be in trouble," said Bill Christiansen, Tulsa City Councilor.

Councilor GT Bynum accused the mayor of focusing on shortfalls for council priorities and ignoring surpluses in other areas.

"It's just really disappointing," said Bynum.

Last week, Mayor Bartlett reported the city budget was short by $869,000 because of what the council added in.

8/13/2010  Related Story: Tulsa City Council Disputes Mayor's Budget Worries

The city finance department stands by the number.

"I think one thing that is there with certainty is that there is a difference of $869,000," said Mike Kier, City Finance Director.

But the council believes the mayor is improperly labeling their spending priorities as the problem.

"Every expenditure is on an equal footing and just to isolate the council priorities and say those aren't funded, those are," said Blair.

The figures from the council show a positive trend for the city that should be more than enough to make up the difference. And that includes depositing more money in the city's reserve fund than ever before. 

The finance director says it's far too early to celebrate and that the shortfall, at least for now, is real.

"It is still short somewhere; it doesn't reduce the shortfall from $869,000 to a lesser number. That is the number," said Kier.

The current argument at City Hall may end up being meaningless if the positive trend continues and there's plenty of money, but it illustrates the lack of confidence the council has in what the mayor says and does.