Tulsa's city council discusses budget cuts with no decisions made

Thursday, December 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage says jobs and salaries need to be cut to keep the city in the black. Employees and council members say that's a hasty move.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler spent Thursday evening in meetings with the Tulsa City Council. It started with a special session late Thursday afternoon; then executive session; then a city council meeting. The objective, to cut costs and saves jobs, without cutting city services. City councilor Clay Bird, "Does everybody understand that? No. There’s a lot of things here I don't understand." Confusion seemed to be the consensus.

City councilors met to discuss alternatives to the Mayor's plan to cut $11-million from the city budget. Mayor Susan Savage has been under fire from city workers and councilors for proposing to reduce wages of non-union employees by 2.5%. The catch? Only those who have received raises in the past year will see reductions. "That is not fair for the ones that do work and do put in 110%." Also on the table, the mayor's plan would abolish nearly 100 jobs. "I would really like clarification on the reason why it would be so much preferred to go ahead and abolish the positions rather than freezing them and leaving them vacant. I don't feel confident that they have really taken enough time to approach everyone who might have good ideas. I feel that this is a little on the hasty side." Councilor Roscoe Turner: "I think all of us understand that all of us aren't quite happy with the original proposal."

Some question whether the deficit exists to the extent publicized. "We don't know how big this deficit is; we don't know if this deficit is just a one-month blip you know in September. Maybe in October, we don't even have October numbers yet." So we don't know if it's just going to go for a month or two, if at all." Councilor Sam Roop says he has a plan to cut costs without cutting jobs, a plan he says would save even more than is needed. "When you add all of this up, this comes to $12,410,000; about a million dollars more than the mayor's proposal. And does not involve affecting any existing city employees." "I am content that the councilors are pressing hard for other options, and that's my main concern is to see that other options are really looked into."

Roop proposes a hiring freeze for jobs that are currently vacant, a $3.65-million savings. Plus, $4.44-million in across-the-board reductions in materials, supplies, and other services. Add that to a proposed $750,000 in legal fee savings, and you've got enough savings to cover the deficit - without any layoffs. Roop says he hopes the mayor will consider the council's plan in tandem with her administration's. He stresses; it is a draft that still needs work.