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Proposed Oklahoma City Budget Shows Continued Hiring Freeze, Cutbacks To Violent Crime Units

The Oklahoma City Police Department's Honor Guard, 2015.
Oklahoma City Police Department
/
Wikimedia CC0 1.0
The Oklahoma City Police Department's Honor Guard, 2015.

A large, phone-book type document.

That's how Mayor Mick Cornett described the proposed Oklahoma City budget for Fiscal Year 2017 unveiled during the city council meeting Tuesday morning.

The budget presentation begins at 24:00 into the meeting

City Manager Jim Couch proposed a nearly $1.3 billion budget, which is down 0.8 percent from the current fiscal year. The city's general revenue fund is down about 4.9 percent.

Budget Director Doug Dowler said during his presentation 48 police positions and 21 fire department positions will be frozen.

“The funding is not there at this current time. And our assumption or our intent is that as revenues improve and increase, then we'll put that funding back,” Dowler said. “But the positions are there in police and fire. So these are vacant positions that we're going to continue to hold vacant through next year is our plan.”

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty says the department plans to reduce the amount of money for overtime for officers focusing on violent crime. But he says even with the 50 percent reduction from the 2015 figure of $900,000, the statistic used to measure violent crime – aggravated assaults – peaked in 2012, The Oklahoman’s William Crum reports:

Homicide, Citty often says, is an aggravated assault with the worst possible outcome — and aggravated assault has been on a downward trend in Oklahoma City the past three years. With the start of a training academy later this month and looking ahead to this time next year, Citty said, the police department is "going to have as many officers as we've ever had." The city council has added dozens of uniform positions to the police department the past three years. In the coming year, with a hold on some of those positions and other budget constraints, Citty said the department will look to be flexible in reacting to crime as and where it occurs.

44 other positions that are authorized have been reduced, and Dowler said in an email to The Oklahoman they're trying to avoid layoffs:

He said personnel officials were "working very hard" to avoid layoffs. A hiring freeze took effect in early November as tax collections slowed. "One of the reasons we implemented the hiring freeze was to create additional vacancies so that when budget cuts took effect there would be some positions available for those whose current positions were cut," Dowler said. If there are any layoffs, it will likely be a very small number, with the final picture known only as the new fiscal year begins July 1, he said. There will be public hearings on the budget May 10, 24, and June 7, and the final vote takes place June 14.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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