|Updated: 4/30/2013 5:39 pm
||Published: 4/30/2013 4:13 pm
Mayor Dewey Bartlett is asking for the largest budget in city history, more than $700 million.
If it passes you'll be paying more for services, but you may not be getting more for your money. About $155 million would go to public safety, which includes police, fire, and even pothole repair crews.
The Tulsa Police Chief tells FOX23 just because there’s a budget increase for police that does not necessarily mean there will be more police officers on the street. “A typical police chief, I always want more. I want us to have everything we need. And we're not going to get that, but we are getting another academy, and I’m excited about that," said Chief Chuck Jordan.
The police department and fire department will get academies this year but not more manpower overall, "we're below levels we were five years ago and our call load has greatly increased, over 300,000 calls a year."
Right now, TPD has 777 officers and the budget calls for 20 new officers to be trained in the academy. The problem is an average of 24 officers retires each year, so Tulsa will still be losing four officers.
The Tulsa Fire Department would get 20 new firefighters, but it loses 20 each year to retirement.
Even after the academy Tulsa police would be about 75 officers below ideal staffing levels.
So if more money is going to public safety but we aren't getting any more officers and firefighters, where are the extra dollars going?
FOX23 learned city taxpayers now have to cover the salaries of nearly 150 first responders who were being paid through federal grants that are set to expire. “A commitment that the City of Tulsa, once that grant expires, we will continue to pay that individual's salary that was hired by that grant for an additional several years," said Mayor Bartlett.
So, an extra $3.1 million will go to paying people already at TPD and TFD.
While Police Chief Chuck Jordan is upset we can't add all the officers he says we need he's doing all he can to at least keep the ones we've got, "we're gonna maintain our level and I think we'll do whatever we have to do to cut other things so we don't have to cut people."
If more officers and firefighters retire than expected the city could have more go through each academy, since rookies would make a lot less than retirees. Staffing police and fire departments is largely based on sales tax revenues. If people spend more money than expected the city could end up hiring more first responders.
The budget includes public safety funding to add two more crews to repair potholes around town.