Tulsa City Council Turns Down Funds for Mayor's Office Payroll

Thursday, May 20th 2010, 11:13 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa City Council turned down a budget transfer that leaves the Mayor's office without money to make payroll for the month of June.

City budget writers asked the city council for a $120,000 transfer. The council said 'no.'

Officials say they are not sure what they'll do next and are waiting on word from Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

The council routinely approves transfers of money between departments, to take out savings or add money as needed, but at the end of a budget year when the city laid off employees,

"This is a big decision, it's not a routine decision," said Councilor Jack Henderson said. "This is a decision that can determine whether anyone of us comes back to these seats or not."

The city council's action leaves the mayor with employees on the payroll and not enough money to pay them. Several city councilors noted the mayor could, as has been done in the past, move his allotment of employees into other departments for payroll purposes.

"As long as it's within the charter and a legal thing to do, if there's money in that department,go for it," Councilor Bill Christiansen said."

But Bill Christiansen and other councilors said they were being told by their constituents to deny Bartlett any extra funding to run his office.

The mayor's office budget is $1.1 million, while the council budget is $1.3 million.

No councilors voiced support for the transfer, but several seemed more certain after Sara Eaton spoke from the audience encouraging them to turn it down.

"I have many, many friends who are officers, who are now looking for a job," Eaton, said. "Tough times mean tough decisions and I think that's where this is going and I hope you all say no to this."

The mayor's Council Liaison Clay Bird defended the mayor and the transfer request, arguing the mayor's office had, in the effort to clarify the budget, moved the employees who answer directly to him onto his office payroll, which has not always been the case.

"It's just an opportunity to set the budget right" said Bird. It's not that the cuts weren't taken, the cuts were taken."

Councilor Christiansen, who has become a frequent critic of the Mayor's budgetary policies, said Bartlett should not have subordinates who make more than the Mayor's $105,000 salary.

"I think the mayor has had an opportunity for several months to make adjustments and he's elected not to do that" said Christiansen. "He's the manager of that department and it's up to him. I'm sure he'll have some solution, but if I were him, I'd start with salary cuts, some deep salary cuts."

The mayor and his senior staff took pay cuts similar to those in other departments, and according to city records, he cut payroll in his office by 19 percent, while other departments will end the year with a 10 percent cut.

The budget transfer would have made the mayor's office budget cut approximately the same as the rest of city government.

See The General Fund Budget From The Mayor's Office

Read The Budget Amendment Ordinance

4/29/2010 Related Story: City Council Gets First Look At Tulsa's Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Budget