In a nine-hour virtual Zoom meeting of the City Council of Oklahoma City Tuesday, budget presentations were given by the Police, Fire, Parks, Development Services, and Transit and Parking departments.
The police budget presentation, made by first-year Chief Wade Gourley, lasted for about six and one-half hours from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. including the public comments on it.
During the three and one-half hours of public comment, nearly 50 participants spoke.
With three exceptions, the comments were made largely in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Most callers demanded a higher level of accountability from the police department.
Many black callers told the stories of their own encounters with Police and their feelings of fear and vulnerability during those times.
Some told stories of police using excessive force and threatening language. Others read quotes from Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, and Theodore Roosevelt during the long and emotional meeting.
One caller, Gary Jones, said that he recognized that the job of being a police officer is difficult, but, he said, “If it’s too hard, get a different job. I can’t get different skin.”
Throughout the comments, Chief Gourley sat at the distant end of a conference table, barely visible, raising the ire of some callers who said that it appeared that Gourley was not interested in hearing feedback. Gourley disagreed and said that the conference room didn’t have the technology for him to be on a separate screen.
All departments in the City of Oklahoma City government have been ordered to present reduced budgets for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1. Current savings have also been achieved through hiring freezes and other measures.
Chief Wade Gourley presented the budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2021.
The total for the budget, $226.1 million, is an overall increase of 3.54% from FY20 to keep up with standard wage increases as well as construction and upkeep.
The Chief explained that the budget reduced costs by $3.1 million by holding 34 police officer positions vacant. The budget also cuts $2.4 million in maintenance and recruiting.
Chief Richard Kelley of the Fire Department presented their proposed FY21 budget.
The budget proposes cuts from the general fund of $3 million by freezing 21 budgeted positions and by reducing overtime. The budget also saves $3 million in construction and contingency budgets.
The Fire Tax Fund budget will be adjusted downward by $629,636 by reducing equipment costs and bringing in-house a formerly outsourced PPE cleaning program.
Doug Kupper of the Parks Department presented the Parks and Recreation budget proposal. He shared that the budget cuts to Parks will be arranged by reducing 13 vacant full-time positions, reduction of part-time and temporary positions, and decreasing mowing of parks. The budget will also include the closure of two community centers and consolidation of their programming.
The Douglass Community Center will be closed and programming will be consolidated with the programming at the recently renovated Pitts Community Center. The Douglass Community Center was already slated for demolition in 2021 to make way for the new Willa Johnson Recreation Center. Participants in programming will be accommodated by bus service to the Pitts Community Center.
The Sellers Community Center at 8301 S. Villa is proposed for closure and consolidation with the Southern Oaks and Taylor Community Centers.
Development Services Budget
Bob Tener of the Development Services Department presented its budget proposal for FY21. Development Services oversees Animal Control, Code Enforcement, and Construction Permitting and Inspection and related services.
Tener described a 6.89% reduction in the overall budget by consolidating code enforcement programming and streamlining certain animal welfare practices in advance of the new MAPS 4 shelter.
Jason Ferbrache, Director of COTPA, gave a presentation of the proposed transit and parking budget for FY21.
He explained that a 6.2% reduction in the budget will be accomplished by reducing service budgets across the board–with the exception of bus service budget–including the suspension of ferry service and the Spokies bike share program for the year. Cuts from the general fund will be offset by CARES Act money in the amount of $9 million.
The Council will hear more budget proposals, in addition to regular business, on Tuesday, June 9 at 8:30am.
Sustain our journalism by becoming a supporter
Oklahoma City Free Press is dedicated to providing high quality journalism that positively impacts our community. Click this link or the red button below to support our mission.