Tulsa City Council works to supplement or save certain city programs facing budget cuts

TULSA - At a budget committee meeting Thursday, Tulsa city councilors identified a number of programs they'd like to see get more cash to supplement their operations or save them altogether.

Specific proposals involved Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority, the Tulsa PAC, Henthorne PAC, crossing guards for the Tulsa Public Schools and Main Street programs.

The budget committee proposed $270,000 for MTTA, $250,000 for crossing guards, $200,000 for Tulsa PAC, $100,000 for Henthorne PAC and $80,000 for Main Street programs.

That money, according to 3rd District City Councilor David Patrick, could come from a potential sales tax revenue projection increase.

City Finance Director Mike Kier said Thursday that he would be comfortable raising that projection by three-tenths of one percent, which would amount to $450,000.

He said sales tax revenues of the last three months have shown improvements, but at this time, there's no reason to believe it's a trend and could sustain itself. Kier said he would not be comfortable with any higher projections.

Additionally, 8th District City Councilor Phil Lakin said the city could increase fees for alarm calls by fire and police to homes and businesses, which could result in another $600,000 in revenues.

The combination of both would allow the aforementioned departments to either continue operation or stave off heavy cuts.

MTTA

CEO Bill Cartwright welcomed the news, saying that if the $270,000 became available, it would mean no reduction in service hours. It would also mean Lift and fixed route buses wouldn't end earlier, as was anticipated. Rate increases of 25 cents for fixed routes and 50 cents for Lift routes would remain in place. The MTTA board recently unanimously approved rate hikes and will present that to city council Thursday.

Crossing Guards

Councilor Patrick said the roughly 60 crossing guard positions within TPS would be kept with $250,000, but it's unclear if the school system or the city would be responsible for them.

Tulsa PAC

PAC Director John Scott says $200,000 would mean saving three full time and three part time positions and allows the PAC to replace seating risers and retrofit the audio system.

Henthorne

Parks Department Director Lucy Dolman says $100,000 will keep the Henthorne Performing Arts Center operational for one more year while they look for non-profit help or a crowd funding source to keep Henthorne open beyond the 2015 fiscal year.

"If sales tax comes in even better and better, we have an opportunity to add back real easy. But, on the other hand, if it takes a dive and these things start going down these special programs will probably be the first thing on the chopping block," Patrick said.

Communications Director Kim MacLeod says these changes could take effect in one of two ways.

First, they could be implemented by the finance department prior to a vote on the budget.

The second possibility could be the budget could be passed by council and then amendments could be made to reflect these changes.

Council hopes to vote on the budget at next Thursday's meeting.

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