Latest Information:
Local & Regional
8:04 am
Fri April 29, 2011

Mayor Proposes $643-million budget

Tulsa, OK – Tonight I present a budget for Fiscal year 2012 that will transform government services and, with your approval, respond to the direction that our citizens have told us they want us to go - the continuing of our emphasis on economic development and our collective quality of life.

With the implementation of PLANiTULSA and the KPMG report, we have started the process of improving the management of our government. Some costs of operating this city will increase - such as the fuel prices - but if we spend wisely and in the right places, we can invest in our city's future and provide opportunity for savings as well as job growth. I point to my speech to TARE yesterday regarding CNG as well as to our decision to change our time and attendance system as examples of these types of investments.

Fortunately, I am able to deliver a much different message today than last year, - one that is vastly more positive than other cities are preparing to deliver. As cities across the country continue to struggle and reduce services, this city is in the position to aggressively move forward. The proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget is once again based on a sound set of conservative principals and policies to create a balance - To live within our means - while improving on the core services that our citizens expect from their city government.

Recently, the Reason Foundation issued its 2010 report on cities that they determined are being well managed based upon the principals of limited government, transparency, and innovative ideas. I am pleased to report that Tulsa was not just mentioned once - we were given a very positive review and identified four times in for our management initiatives. We will continue in that direction in the next fiscal year, based on innovative ideas coming from proven best practices by good management and leadership.

This year's budget is based, in large part, upon something that has never been considered in the past: our recent citizen survey. Through the generosity of the Tulsa Community Foundation, we, for the first time, asked the entirety of this City for their opinions. It is upon those results that much of this proposed budget is based. In a real sense, this is the first Citizens Budget. Every dollar we receive and spend comes from the citizens, and this is our opportunity to take direction from the taxpayers. All of us have seen copies of the survey - the results are given for the entirety of the city as well as for each city council district. It was a very thorough survey. We have all been given a thorough analysis of the survey results both on a citywide and City Council basis.

The citizens' recommended priorities came through loud and clear: beautification efforts, economic development initiatives, quality of life enhancements, street improvements, and smart but frugal spending policies. You will see that in this budget, each of these has received an increased level of funding compared to past year's budgets. This budget responds directly to the voices of the people of Tulsa.

A big part of any economic development effort is how a city looks and how it plans for its future. We know from the survey that a majority of Tulsans believe that we are moving in the right direction. The policy and investment decisions that we make will determine what our city will become. The RFP to develop the Arkansas River that will be available tomorrow is an example of how we see the future for our city. The operations and capital budgets presented tonight keep us going in the right direction, by investing over $640 million dollars in our future.

Now, I would like to provide you with a brief summary of the highlights of the operations and capital budgets that address both economic development for the future and quality of life for today.

Tulsans take pride in being from Tulsa. Because of this pride, they expect the appearance of Tulsa to be the best it can be and that we, as elected officials, make every effort to take care of Tulsa's quality of life. I remember well the phrase "America's Most Beautiful City" that was used for decades to describe our city.

In this budget, we propose to double code enforcement efforts, continue to increase funding to address the demolition of dilapidated structures, increase mowing on city land from six to 10 cycles; provide capital for our zoo and parks, open five public pools and four waterparks for children; increase our supplies for volunteers to use in graffiti removal; increase our salt reserve; increase our investment in CNG; make a capital investment in the Gilcrease Museum and continue our emphasis on a model flood control program.

In the area of strengthening public safety we have budgeted for one police academy and one fire academy next year; We are including department requests for fire apparatus, police vehicles, safety vests, EMSA ambulances and we are in negotiation with all unions on increased compensation for employees. At approximately mid-year in Fiscal Year 2012, if our actual revenues are exceeding our forecast, then we will seriously consider adding an additional police and/or fire academy.

STREETS AND PUBLIC FACILITIES

The number one issue for Tulsans is the condition of our streets. This is not surprising as we are almost half way through the Fix Our Streets program. So far, it is being successfully managed. In this next fiscal year, about $70 million in sales tax and capital bond issues will come on line for construction, maintenance & rehabilitation projects. We are catching up after years of neglect. We all realize the importance of a sensible ongoing maintenance program.

In years past, we have not done as good a job as we should have to keep our streets from falling into disrepair.

This year, we will launch the most aggressive and comprehensive plan to catch up on our maintenance. We propose increased spending on pot hole repairs, crack sealing and guardrail replacement. We also know from our most recent blizzard that we need to increase our snow removal capacity. This budget includes funding to equip five additional trucks with new snow plows and new sand spreaders. We will also have contracts in place with private contractors should we need to call upon them. Our blizzard debriefing effort continues and you will soon hear about a variety of improvements to our response to future weather related events. Any budgetary needs will be addressed prior to your final adoption of this budget during the technical correction phase in June.

IMPROVED CITY SERVICES

With the citizen's survey and the business study recommendations providing guidance, we will continue our efforts to work smarter with innovative ideas through the great employee work force the city of Tulsa has. My announcement Wednesday of the creation of a City Manager position is an example. We are also reorganizing the Public Works Department to make certain that it continues to be responsive, transparent, and efficient, particularly in street management policies. The organizational structure will be very understandable, especially to the public.

We will soon have for the first time a substantial Planning and Development Department under the guidance of a new Planning Director, under the umbrella of Economic Development. As you will see in this budget, after reviewing some of the best Planning Department practices from across the country, this new department will combine and support several functions that presently exist in numerous city departments.

We are reorganizing many citizen services that primarily deal with citizen questions and requests into a new Customer Care Service Department. Every contact which a citizen has with the city should be with a knowledgeable, courteous, and helpful professional. We have a great group of employees, but they need a less cumbersome structure. This consolidation will not only provide cost savings opportunities but will also provide for cross training so all of our customer care employees can help citizens looking for assistance. When there is a sudden increase in calls for a particular need, more people will be available to answer calls and give direction. Being put on hold will become a thing of the past.

For the first time in two years, we are not including furloughs in the budget. Instead, we are negotiating to provide funds for affordable pay increases for our dedicated city workers. Over the past two difficult years, they have all stepped up to do more work with fewer resources and it's time they receive more than our appreciation. The terrific way they responded to our record blizzard was incredible.

We will also make a substantial contribution to the employee pension system. As you know, across the country, and even within our own state, cities have struggled to keep their promises to employees that the pension fund will be fiscally sound and prepared for them when they retire. We intend to keep that promise.

To help keep our spending in check during uncertain times, we will maintain a non-sworn vacancy rate with our funded but unfilled positions at 2.5%, resulting in a projected savings of $3.3 million across all City funds. Budgeting for expenses out of our control is always difficult. Regarding the costs of gasoline and diesel fuel, we must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In this budget we will increase the projected costs of gasoline from the current $2.00 a gallon to $3.60 a gallon. That is an average cost for both gasoline and diesel fuel.

COMPENDIUM COMPATIBLE

Both the operations and capital budgets address many of the issues prioritized by the Council in your compendium of needs.

This budget addresses your desire to:

* Continue to provide public safety staffing
* Launch the first ever river development Request for Proposals
* Implement PLANiTULSA recommendations with a new Planning Director and an updated zoning code.
* Enhance code enforcement and our capacity to address dilapidated structures.
* Enhance street maintenance
* Open more splash pads and other park improvements
* Continue with the implementation of the transition of zoo management to TZMI
* Remove employee furlough days
* Implement the automated time and attendance system
* Continue to aggressively pursue the collection of fines and taxes owed to the City.

RATES

This budget also includes a proposal to roll back the transfer rate of funds going from the enterprise funds to the general fund to 7 percent from the current rate of 7.5 percent. This year's transfers to the general fund will total $10.9 million dollars. TMUA has transferred an additional $21.6 million to the general fund since increasing the transfer rate from 5.5% to 7.5% in 2004. As part of this reduction, we will be entering into a series of written agreements between TMUA and the City of Tulsa regarding our shared services, responsibilities and mutual expectations.

As was contemplated in our five year rate model, and requested of the Council last year, TMUA is requesting rate adjustments for the cost of providing water and wastewater services.

These rate adjustments are needed to continue debt service payments on loans for mandated improvements and replacement of assets that are beyond their useful life; and to fund the capital program for necessary equipment replacement.

System-wide, the water rate increase is 7 percent and wastewater is proposed to increase by 9 percent. Our rates are still below our peer cities for residential water and wastewater, more than 20% below for water and 10 % for wastewater.

No increase in stormwater fees or EMSA fees is included in this budget.

The Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy has requested an 8% increase in rates for the first time in more than a decade. In 2007, the TARE board reduced rates for trash service. This proposed increase will bring rates up to the same level as they were prior to 2007, when the TARE board actually decreased the rates.

The rate increase will go toward start up costs of the new refuse contracts anticipated for FY 2012, and the new Green Waste collection program. We are anticipating a visionary, all encompassing contract from TARE regarding our trash removal and recycling opportunities. Additionally, we anticipate a trend-setting commitment regarding the use of CNG as a fuel that will be the beginning of Tulsa once again staking the flag to become the center of the energy universe in both traditional energy sources as well as most of the known alternative energies.

All rate increases on the utility bill for an average household user would amount to $4.37 per month.

INITIATIVES FOR FY 2012

During the next fiscal year a number of new and innovative initiatives will be launched that will continue our focus on strengthening our economic development position, improving the quality of life for Tulsans and continuing with a high performing and well managed government.

Some of these will include:

1. Reforming the purchasing and procurement administration

2. Launching an aggressive "Lights On" program to get more street lights installed in more neighborhoods

3. Implementation of the Parks Master Plan

4. Moving forward with the responses from the river RFP's received

5. Beginning of a new initiative: "Across the Generations - What We Owe Each Other" to prepare the city for our aging population

6. Restructuring of the Department of Grants Administration

7. Implementing the recommendations from the City / County Collaboration Committee

8. Continued implementation of cost savings and efficiency measures with city services

9. Greater efforts on local sales tax auditing and collections

CLOSING

We are implementing the transformational changes in government that will allow us to manage operations, communicate and respond better to citizen expectations. Our investment in our neighborhoods, public safety, streets and economic development will lead to big improvements for our citizens in the areas of their greatest concern.

Tulsa's future is bright. We continue to see our downtown grow and prosper; improved employment rates; a consolidated effort to complete the Gilcrease Expressway; more attention to our Intermodal Transportation Project. We are joining the effort to support our Tulsa Public School district to repair and improve our school system, which will be a benefit for all Tulsans, and is essential to our success as a community.

Before I say goodnight, I want to extend a sincere thank you and express my gratitude to the Finance Department and Budget staff for working late nights and weekends to complete the budget, and also for taking care of the organizational changes with little time. In particular, Tammy Pitts, Keith Eldridge and David West put in the extra effort to complete the Public Works reorganization in time for the budget preparation.

Councilors, Thank you for your attention and consideration of this proposed budget. Over the next few weeks, we will be available to answer your questions and discuss the very important investments I have outlined here tonight on behalf of our citizens - because this is the Citizen's Budget.