Tulsa Firefighters Wait For Mayor's Decision On Budget Amendments

Friday, July 9th 2010, 4:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett is holding fast to his decision to delay spending money from the city's new budget.

7/8/10 Related Story: Tulsa Mayor Delays Council's Amendments To Budget 

The City Council voted to override the mayor's veto and restore nearly $3 million in funding.

7/1/10 Related Story: Tulsa City Council Overrides Some Of Mayor Bartlett's Budget Vetoes

The Tulsa Fire Department was hoping some of that money would help restore salaries. But now they're left waiting and the mayor says he's not sure if that will ever happen.

When the city renegotiated contracts with its employees earlier this year, Tulsa firefighters avoided layoffs but agreed to take a chunk out of their paychecks.

The new contract amounts to essentially a little more than a 5% pay cut.

There was hope on the horizon for firefighters when the new budget was passed, only not before political gamesmanship. The council amended the budget to restore $2.9 million.

The money would go to, among other things, purchase salt and sand for city crews during the winter, take the police helicopters out of storage and put them back in the sky, and more than $2 million of it would restore firefighter salaries.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed the amendments, then the council voted to override the veto, meaning the money is in the budget and available.

Now comes the controversy. Mayor Bartlett says he's not spending the money.

"Simply because the budget was passed doesn't mean we suddenly have a big pot full of money that we can throw money around and everybody's happy," Bartlett said.

The mayor says he's waiting until at least August 1, before deciding whether to spend the money. He says that will give him a better idea of just how much surplus money the city has in the bank.

"We're being conservative and making certain we don't overspend the money we don't have," he said. "That's all it is."

The Tulsa firefighters union declined to talk on camera but says they met with the council and mayor's staff to confirm the money is available. They're not sure what the mayor will do or if their salaries will be restored. For now it's simply a waiting game.

The firefighters union has plans to meet with the council and mayor's staff again on Monday. Meanwhile the mayor says he does plan buy sand and asphalt in August and, perhaps, reduce the number of furlough days for city employees.