Possible Deal On Tulsa Police And Fire Budgets

Monday, June 22nd 2009, 3:10 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- In the budget battle over public safety at Tulsa City Hall, there is now a framework of a deal.  The breakthrough in negotiations came late on Monday afternoon.  The budget was passed on Thursday, but the unions determine how dollars are spent.

Even though the deep cuts suggested by the Tulsa City Council didn't materialize, both of the unions representing firefighters and police continued to negotiate how to cut $1.5 million each.  At city hall on Monday, there were signs of progress.

"It's very positive.  It's mutually agreeable to both sides.  They're working out the numbers and writing up a memorandum of understanding and I'm very excited," said Fraternal Order of Police President Phil Evans.

"I think we have gotten closer to both goals:  saving the money and providing the same level of service that we're providing now," said President Stan May with the Tulsa Firefighters Union.

But, there's still a minority on the council that supported making a 20% cut from fire and police, so the money could be spent elsewhere.

Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson has outlined numbers that show since 1968, Tulsa's population and land area has increased less than 17%, while the fire department budget increased by more than 1400%, and the police budget increased by more than 2200%.

That's resulted in the last year when the city expected roughly $143 million from the two cent sales tax for the general fund, while the combined budget for fire and police was roughly the same $143 million, leaving all other city departments to divide up the rest.

For the police union, the numbers show the city needs to consider a tax to support public safety.

"It's up to the citizens what they want to do.  Whether they want to go with the four councilors who wanted to cut 14 firefighters and 149 police officers or whether they want to go with another half penny, you know, these are all choices," said Fraternal Order of Police President Phil Evans.

Whenever the negotiations are settled, the union members have to approve the deal.