City Of Tulsa Eyes More Budget Cuts

Wednesday, May 13th 2009, 7:16 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- It's another sign of the economy in crisis.  The City of Tulsa has at least a $5 million shortfall in the budget for next year, even after making $13 million in cuts.

The mayor and council have some difficult decisions on where to cut, after a big drop in sales tax income for the city.  It started last November, and it's going to cut into what services the city can provide.

Mike Kier runs the city finance department and he's tracking a strong drop in the sales tax the city spends for daily operations.  The numbers show sales tax is down 8% from last year.

"We hate to see that number, but seeing that 8% decline is an indicator we'll see more declines in the next year," said City of Tulsa Finance Director Mike Kier.

It comes after the mayor offered a budget that included some layoffs and a four day furlough of city employees.  Tulsa spends $625,000 a day on salaries and the new numbers mean the furloughs could get longer and the layoffs could grow.

"It will require additional cuts, significant cuts," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

The mayor and the city council come up with the budget together and these days it's all about cutting costs.

It would cost the city $263 million to maintain the current level of service.

The mayor's first budget cut that to $250 million and the new budget numbers will go back to $245 million.

The worst case budget plan is $240 million dollars, an effective cut of $23 million from last year.

"It's going to be I said It's going to be a bumpy ride, it's going to be a difficult year," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Kier says his review of the numbers shows the drop started before Thanksgiving when fear of poor sales prompted stores to cut prices.  That also cuts the amount of sales tax.

"It started with those kind of discounts and continued throughout the holiday season," said City of Tulsa Finance Director Mike Kier.

The sales tax has dropped this much in a month only twice in the last 37 years, and both times, the trend continued for another full year.

And, those difficult decisions can't wait because the budget has to be balanced in a little over a month.

Mayor Taylor met with department heads and the labor unions on Wednesday to try to find new places to cut.