By Dan Bewley, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa City Council voted Thursday night 7-2 to accept a $3.5 million COPS stimulus grant that would pay the salaries of 18 new officers for three years. After that, the salary would come out of the city budget.
Some city councilors were concerned about the long-term costs to the city: $665,000 for the officers' fourth year on the job.
Councilors debated the issue for close to 45 minutes then voted to approve accepting the stimulus funds.
"The addition of these 18 officers will go a great - a long, great way to help us with our public safety efforts," said Deputy Chief of Police Mark McCrory.
The catch, though, is the grant requires the city to keep the officers on the payroll for at least one year after it expires. The Oklahoma Impact Team learned the cost to the city for that additional year will run $1.3 million.
Councilors Bill Martinson and Rick Westcott say the financial risk is too much for the city to accept the grant and voted against it.
"I'm not prepared to make that kind of gamble with the taxpayers money," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott. "Our sales tax revenues will have to increase by 15% over the next three years for us to afford that fourth year salary."
"I've been saying I'm not supportive of this from the get-go because we've got that commitment out there that I don't think we can honor," said Bill Martinson, Tulsa City Councilor.
But Councilor Bill Christiansen says the financial climate could change in four years, and the opportunity to add 18 officers to the police force at virtually no cost to the city is too great to pass up.
"Public safety is the foundation for the city of Tulsa and the citizens of Tulsa and I think it's important that we have as many officers on the street as we can have," Christiansen said.
The city will also have to pay $397,000 for equipment and training for the news officers.
The next Police Academy is scheduled to begin next January.