Increased parking meter rates could pay for police officers

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 6/13/2013 9:13 pm Published: 6/13/2013 4:38 pm

Tulsans have overwhelmingly told officials at City Hall they want more cops on the streets, but as the City Council continues to work on approving a budget the challenge becomes how to pay for them.

Mayor Bartlett's budget proposal included funding for a police academy that would add 22 officers, but councilors say that's not enough.

City councilors and the mayor have gone back and forth with several options to get two police academies in the next year and all of them require cutting other areas of the budget.

The most controversial option came from Bartlett who proposed doubling parking meter rates to pay for more cops.

"More cops can, you know, never hurt," said Keeisha Elliot, a Tulsan who wants more police.

Tulsans seem to agree there's a need.

"They just need to get more to protect everybody…you know, all these killings that's been going on, and the children mainly. That's what I focus on is the children, because I have three myself," said Elliot.

Bartlett proposed a budget topping $700 million, but it only included funds for 22 new cops.

So city councilors came back with a proposal to cut $2.5 million elsewhere in the budget to get that number up to 61 new officers.

Bartlett countered with a plan to double parking meter rates from fifty cents an hour to a dollar an hour to raise more funds to pay for up to 45 new cops.

That didn't sound unreasonable to Ashley Tow

“I'm from California, so to me a dollar an hour is still really cheap for parking. I mean there we have, you know, $5 an hour for parking," said Tow.

She does realize folks around Tulsa probably feel differently.

"I guess if you do raise the cost of the meters then less people might be likely to come downtown if you're not able to find affordable parking," she said.

And Elliott doesn't think enough Tulsans would go for it.

"It's already enough going on with the taxes and all that. And trying to get people to pay extra just to support that cause, I don't think that…I don't see that happening," she said.

Now city councilors are racking their brains to come up with any other option to come up with the extra funds.

"I'm sure there's a whole bunch of ways they can cut money, but I can't really think of one off the top of my head," said Tow.

That lack of a magic formula seems to be the big problem at this point.

At Thursday’s council budget meeting councilors discussed the possibility that raising parking meter rates to pay for cops may not even be legal under the city charter.

The council must approve a budget plan before June 30th because the new fiscal year starts July 1st.

FOX23 reached out to mayoral candidate Kathy Taylor for a comment on the budget plans to get more police officers in Tulsa, since she would inherit this budget if she wins the runoff election in November.

Taylor sent in this statement:

I would not support a hasty proposal to raise parking meter rates and possibly impact people coming downtown at a time when we are seeing a tremendous revitalization in the area. The solution to Tulsa's public safety needs is not a knee-jerk response to impose new fees or establish new, permanent taxes - it's to live within our means, like all Tulsans have to do.

The thoughtful plan set forth by Councilors Bynum and Gilbert - which looks at the existing revenue and prioritizes public safety appropriately - is the best solution on the table right now and deserves further dialogue and careful consideration.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

diskohh - 6/14/2013 10:20 AM
1 Vote
Tulsa NEEDS more police officers.. I just don't think this is the way to fund it..

Mayor Maynot - 6/14/2013 7:44 AM
0 Votes
Boycott Downtown Tulsa.

CowBot9000 - 6/14/2013 6:23 AM
0 Votes
Where are our tax dollars going?

karlschneider - 6/13/2013 8:56 PM
0 Votes
Just charge $10,000 an hour to park...they'll only need a few customers to balance the budget.
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