New Budget For Tulsa Police Is Good News For Tulsa Firefighters

Tuesday, June 15th 2010, 9:09 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK – Now that Tulsa's laid-off police officers may be coming back, some are wondering about the sacrifices Tulsa firefighters made to keep the city's budget balanced.

Tulsa police lost officers, while the fire department lost pay. City leaders say it doesn't have to be a competition between Tulsa's finest and Tulsa's bravest.

If the police department gets more money, the fire department could too.

Back in January, Tulsa's firefighters cast their ballots for what they considered to be the lesser of two evils. They opted for pay cuts and furloughs instead of cutting jobs.

1/31/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Firefighters Union Accepts Mayor's Proposal, Stops Layoffs

Firefighter Michael McGee said, "147 of us were on the chopping block and the rest of them didn't have to vote to save our jobs but they did. I appreciate it greatly."

Tulsa Police made a different choice. More than 120 officers were laid off - some were re-hired - but most had to turn in their gear.

3/1/2010 Related Story: Thirty-Five Tulsa Police Officers Back At Work

Now the rest could get their badges back.

"It's good news for the fire department because it's good news for the citizens," said Stan May, Tulsa Fire Department. "We're getting our police back. They're looking at bringing back the fire department. They're looking at bringing some of our guys back too."

Stan May leads the fire department's union. He says the fire fighters' contract includes what they call a "me too" clause. Basically, if police negotiate a better deal, firefighters won't get left out.

"If the police sign a contract that doesn't have as much or any wage concessions, we'll get our 5.2% wage back also," May said.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett made it clear at the city council meeting that he's not forgotten the firefighters' sacrifice.

"We should not walk out of this room without a 110% full fledged commitment to the fire department," Mayor Bartlett said.

And Stan May believes the city is finally in a position to make good on that promise.

"It looks like we've at least turned the corner," May said. "We're just glad to see that everything's stabilized and now we can start working our way back."

The mayor wants the city council to agree to a package of revenue enhancements, including a $5 utility fee. That would not only restore the fire fighters' pay cuts but also the cuts taken by city workers.