Budget Woes Continue: Job Cuts, Reduced Services

altThe city of Tulsa will lay off about 35 employees and abolish another 15 or so positions in an effort to meet a projected $6 million shortfall for this fiscal year, according to budget documents

Almost all training and travel, computer upgrades, various safety equipment and other purchases are being deferred and most unfilled positions will remain so under the proposal submitted Tuesday by Mayor Kathy Taylor.

In a prepared statement, the mayor said, “Public safety will not be jeopardized and the vital core services our citizens rightfully expect will not be interrupted.”

The proposed cuts will impact city employees in many ways, from forcing many to use their own cell phones to assuming additional duties, to delays in their ability to do their jobs.  For citizens, it will mean a longer wait for some city services, possible reductions in the number of city board meetings and shorter hours at some facilities.

More importantly, while officials say the cuts will enable the city to meet its current fiscal budget, it defers purchases and training needed that the next administration must face.

Some of the cuts are trivial – no coffee for jurors and longer lines at the Performing Arts Center;  to interesting – reducing lighting on certain expressways and “limit ability to advertise public hearing notices;”  to serious –  reducing police officers and delaying purchase of fire protection equipment.  

Hardest hit are the Police and Fire departments, which would absorb $3.4 million of the $6 million in budget cuts.

Police Department cuts include 21 positions, although officials said they hope to retain 18 of those employees through a federal COPS grant.  There is no assurance the city will get that approval.

The cuts also eliminate the March 2010 Academy. This, according to budget documents, “will adversely impact actual staffing levels; 30 less officers by the end of the fiscal year.”

Other cuts include grounding the department’s two helicopters and eliminating the mounted patrol unit. Those officers would be assigned to patrol duties. Two senior forensic positions also won’t be filled.

For the Fire Department, the Academy also is eliminated; which budget documents estimate mean the city will be short 16 firefighter positions by the end of fiscal 2010.

The plan also defers $513,000 in various equipment purchases: “If an incident occurs causing the need to replace gear or equipment, we will not have the funding.”

In the Information Technology department, more than $335,000 is being cut. The impacts are considered “medium” to “medium/high impact.” Those cuts include computers, software, consulting services, computer maintenance and upgrades.

“Expect that some service levels will decrease,” document said. “Public Safety and Finance systems among others could be degraded.”

The Development Services Department will abolish four positions, which “will have a continued impact on our level of service to the citizens. Plans Review and Inspections will take longer.”

The Transit Department will cut $154,000 and use federal stimulus funds to maintain service in fiscal 2010. But budget documents raise a red flag.

“Severe impact in FY 12 if this and other reductions totaling over $2 million are not resolved.”

The city also plans to lay off one assistant city attorney, which “will have an adverse impact on the legal services performed by the Legal Department … there will be times when staffing minimums required to provide coverage for each courtroom will not be met.”

The mayor asked for a review of all city vehicles. That review determined more than 220 will be sold and/or removed from the city’s inventory. That in turn will result in an annual savings of maintenance and fuel of approximately $150,000 and one-time revenues of approximately $300,000 from sales.

In a statement, the mayor said she will ask the city council to use all “one-time” funds from the surplus sale to be used for short term capital needs in years 2012 to 2014.