Mayor Vetoes Budget Changes

Mayor Dewey Bartlett today issued a veto on specific items of the recently passed budget ordinance for the City of Tulsa for FY 2011, as well a veto of the decision by the Council to transfer $746,500 to the General Fund from the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy fund.  The TARE money was meant to fund $630,000 for city-wide mowing, and $116,500 for graffiti abatement.

The veto message for the TARE transfer included a letter dated June 16, 2010 from Mr. Steven Berlin. Berlin stated in the letter that the TARE board is not in a position to legally abide by the budget amendment.

With respect to the FY 2011 budget ordinance, Bartlett issued the following veto message by letter to the City Council, addressed to Council Chairman Rick Westcott:

My purpose in using my veto authority is to provide an opportunity to spend additional time to consider the variety and effect of the unintended consequences that can result from the passage of the ordinance.  As I have stated publicly, part of my job is to protect the financial integrity of the City of Tulsa’s government organization.  In today’s economic climate there are too many uncertainties contained in the assumptions upon which the budget ordinance is based.  If our revenues decline or worse, if we experience a double-dip recession, your budget is not sufficiently financed to weather much of a financial storm.

I have three major concerns regarding the FY 2011 budget adopted by the City Council last Thursday.

The adopted budget restores activities and services without providing a stable funding source.  The expenditures, such as highway lighting, the restoration of fire department salaries, and discontinuing four furlough days for non-sworn employees would be paid for by using non-recurring fund balances.  This amounts to a one time pay for our long term commitment of ongoing expenses.  The danger created by this action is that it puts at risk future salaries of our employees and again stopping services supplied by the City.  While I support our firefighters and civilian employees, I do not support jeopardizing their future wages with one time funds.

The actual fund balance is not normally determined until late- July or August.  Finance Director Mike Kier has repeatedly told Council that the estimated fund balance will be between $1.5 million and $3 million, but it is not a guarantee.  

The Council has approved increasing funding for ongoing costs when the estimate of funds available for those costs might be only half of what is needed.  Furthermore, the fund balance estimate provided to date does not reflect other one-time costs such as severance pay for employees of the Tulsa Zoo and Tulsa Area Agency on Aging who will be leaving the City’s employment.  If and when these happen, the fund balance will be greatly reduced by several hundred thousand dollars.

I am concerned that the changes made to the budget jeopardize our current JAG funding and could impair our ability to access future Department of Justice funds. In order to receive and retain a JAG, which currently pays salaries of 35 police officers, the Police Department budget should not be reduced by a percentage greater than the overall general fund reduction.

In my proposed budget, that difference was less than one percentage point.  With the budget amendments approved by Council last Thursday, the Police Department budget reduction equals 7.6 percent, while the overall general fund budget reduction, less transfers, is 5.8 percent. According to guidelines from the Department of Justice website I believe this could be considered supplanting.  The unintended consequences of that Council decision would be devastating.

It is my role, as Mayor, to do what I can to protect City government, our employees and raise these issues. To act fiscally responsible, the City Council must understand the ramifications of your actions in not reconsidering this budget.

For the above reasons I am vetoing Council’s changes to my proposed budget as follows:

General Fund

Re-activate Two Police Helicopters, $226,021
Salt, Sand, and Overtime for Winter Storm Response, $  69,000
Highway Lighting, $263,000
Street- Pothole Repair, $500,000
Fire Department, $900,000
Eliminate Four (4) Furlough Days,  $968,000
Total:  $2,926,021

While I support all aspects of economic development including retail development, I do not agree that a discussion of duplicate effort is in the best interest of our City.  Therefore, this veto also includes the budget item in the Economic Development Commission fund to the E.D.C. Real Estate Management Department in the amount of $100,000.00.