City of Tulsa $712 million budget includes consultants, membership fees, employee parking subsidy

TULSA - 'Tis the season for shopping and with each sale, two cents of every dollar you spend in Tulsa goes to City Hall. It adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It funds roads, police and fire.

The total budget for the City of Tulsa is $712 million.

The 2NEWS Investigators pored over the 700-page budget line-by-line. Some of the expenses we discovered left us asking some questions.

We found $315,000 is budgeted to subsidize parking for employees who have to park downtown while they work.

"It's somewhat to be competitive. I know this isn't true with all of the private sector companies that work downtown, but many of them, especially the larger ones, it's part of the benefit package," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

Then we found more than $100,000 in membership fees, $78,000 of that was in just one department. It's listed under the city's Government Accounting.

The mayor told us the membership is to the Oklahoma Municipal League. It's a group that lobbies lawmakers on city interests.

"In order to get our points across to the more rural senators," said Bartlett.

The mayor says it's helped. Bartlett says the league's efforts could save the city a million dollars in state expenses.

"This upcoming legislative session we're going to see a bill that is going to cut in half the amount of money the Oklahoma Tax Commission charges us," said Bartlett.

We also discovered $800,000 budgeted for consultants. Nearly every department in the city has money to spend on consultants.

"Some of it is somewhat specialized, and we don't have that type of expertise on our staff, " said Bartlett.

The mayor says hiring a temporary consultant for the job instead of a full-time employee saves money in the long run because the city wouldn't have to pay benefits. Plus, an employee is a recurring expense, whereas, a consultant works for a matter of months at a one-time cost.

He said right now city leaders are preparing for next year's budget, and they will look at the parking and consulting costs we pointed out to see if there are saving opportunities.

"We're always looking at those type things we can do to save the taxpayers' money," said Bartlett.

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