POSTED ON MAY 8, 2013:
The City News
When More Is Less. Two numbers probably best define Tulsa's spending as a city. Mayor Dewey Bartlett's budget proposal unveiled April 30 increases total city spending to $711 million.
But he also wants general fund spending to be slashed by 2 percent, reducing the part of the budget out of which many daily services to the community are delivered. (The general fund excludes big-ticket items like capital expenses, as well as water and sewer operational needs.)
Mike Kier, the city's finance director, said the budget for the general fund (sometimes known as the GF in city shorthand) has only been cut about six times in the last four decades. The two percent proposed reduction would bring the general fund to $267.1 million, down about $5.4 million from last year's adopted budget. And, as noted in the preface to last year's budget document, "the GF is still far from where it was in FY08 in terms of service levels."
Bartlett's proposal is based on a prediction of a modest 2 percent growth rate in sales tax revenue compared to the budget projections adopted last year. "Presently, we are not able to fund departmental requests that would increase programs and services," Bartlett told the council.
However, he made sure to point out in a memo to the council that public safety spending will receive a larger share of general fund dollars, with a 58 percent allocation in his proposal compared to a 56 percent allocation last year.
Bartlett also emphasized his proposal to ask voters to devote a 0.167 sales tax for public safety and street maintenance, converting and extending a current temporary tax used to fund capital projects.
As for the overall spending number, it represents a 0.9 percent increase, up about $6.5 million from last year. Much of the increase in spending has to do with water and sewer operations.
"We continue our progress while living within our means, by presenting a budget based on sound, conservative principles of limiting government to core services, creating transparency and encouraging innovation," Bartlett told the council, which will meet with him over the next several weeks to beat a late-June deadline for adopting a budget that will serve as a blueprint for city operations for the 12-month period beginning July 1.
Campaign Racing. Appearances and visibility are becoming crucial in a mayor's race now entering its debate season.
For Kathy Taylor, a parking lot setting for a news conference offered close proximity to a fire station across the street. The May 1 news conference highlighted the decision by a political action committee representing city firefighters to endorse Taylor.
The event included remarks from Sandy McGhee, a retired firefighter and vice president for the local district of the International Association of Firefighters.
He said he expected Taylor to make it a "top priority" to ensure firefighters "have the staffing equipment and other resources they need to do the best job possible."
Meanwhile, the Bill Christiansen campaign on May 3 unveiled a 30-second TV ad, weeks after ads from Taylor and Mayor Dewey Bartlett's campaign began airing.
While the lateness of the ad may reflect a lack of financial resources compared to the other two campaigns, the mayoral race is now entering its debate season -- offering candidates equal time to make their case to voters.
After Urban Tulsa Weekly's press deadline, a forum organized by the League of Women Voters was scheduled to take place May 8, with the event to be broadcast live on KTUL 8.3 and streamed at KTUL.com. The event will also be aired at 2pm on Saturday, May 11, on KTUL's main channel, 8.1.
Another forum is scheduled for Thursday, May 9, sponsored by Leadership Tulsa in an event not open to the general public. At least one other similar event will take place June 5.
School Vote. Though the city's mayoral race has grabbed most of the political headlines, Tulsa voters on Tuesday, May 14, will decide the fate of a $38-million technology bond proposal for Tulsa Public Schools.
According to the school district, $31 million from the bond would pay for technology like wireless Internet access in every classroom, electrical upgrades to buildings and a variety of computers, laptops, tablets and e-readers.
Another $4 million would go to sprinkler installation, while $3 million would be devoted to security needs.
The bond would result in a yearly tax increase of $40.50 per year for the owner of a house valued at $100,000, according to the district.
A forum about the proposed bond issue will be held Thursday, May 9, from 6-7pm at East Central High School's auditorium, located at 12150 E. 11th St., the last of several similar informational forums hosted by the district.
Waters Grant. The death of disability advocate Nate Waters has inspired a $157,500 grant to establish the Nate Waters Physical Therapy Clinic at Tulsa Community College.
But the anonymously-donated grant comes in the form of a pledge to match fundraising dollars, so the college is seeking donations for the clinic.
Waters died April 21. The Tulsa Community College graduate was 35 years old and had been paralyzed following an assault when he was 19.
"This is about a very special man. Nate embodied service to others and led by humility and grace and this building ensures his legacy of helping others," Tulsa Community College Foundation Board Chair Mary Shaw said in a statement. The new center would offer reduced-cost physical therapy services while also offering a clinical training session for TCC students.
The college has a physical therapist assistant program, which often had Waters speak to students about his experiences as a person with a disability. Waters, while attending the college and working with college staff, was able to regain enough movement in his hand to operate a computer and eventually write.
The proposed new clinic was first announced last year, with $1.6 million now raised to buy land and prepare for construction at 815 S. Cincinnati Ave. Anyone interested in making a contribution can visit tulsacc.edu/foundation.
Tulsa Chamber Adds New Blood. The Tulsa Regional Chamber has promoted Justin McLaughlin to the role of senior vice president of economic development and named Muskogee City-County Port Authority Director of Business and Economic Development Brien Thorstenberg vice president of economic development.
"I can speak from experience when I tell you that Justin McLaughlin is an outstanding choice," Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said in a statement. "I have traveled with Justin domestically and internationally, and he is as knowledgeable as they come on economic development."
Thorstenberg leaves Muskogee, but hopes to continue a relationship with the city.
"I am very excited to be joining the Tulsa Regional Chamber team. The support the Port of Muskogee, the City of Muskogee and the community have given me in my role as director of business and economic development has been tremendous," he said in a statement. "In my capacity as vice president of the Chamber's economic development division, I look forward to continuing to serve Muskogee and all of northeast Oklahoma."
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