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Oklahoma City Council considers public safety, transit budget

The Oklahoma City Council reviewed the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget Tuesday for the fire and police departments, along with public transportation and parking. The fiscal year begins July 1, and the council is set to adopt the budget by mid-June.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: May 9, 2012

Communicating with Spanish-speaking Oklahoma City residents, more efficient response efforts by firefighters and paramedics and the importance of public transportation were issues that took center stage Tuesday at the first of four city council meetings devoted to next fiscal year's budget.

The regular weekly city council meeting was replaced Tuesday by budget presentations from the fire chief, police chief and the leader of the city's transportation and parking operations.

Other city department presentations will follow in the coming weeks, with the city council set to vote June 12 on the budget, which will take effect July 1 when fiscal year 2013 begins.

City staff has proposed a $952 million total budget for next year, up from $919 million this year, with the new spending funded by post-recession economic growth in Oklahoma City. Public safety spending is more than half of the city's proposed operations budget, and the council dove into that and transit on Tuesday.

Changing demographics

City departments form goals each year based in part on past and projected performance, responses from resident surveys and direction from the council. The budget meetings are a chance for the departments and council to talk about new goals and changes in particular.

Population growth isn't evenly spread in Oklahoma City, and the strain on infrastructure, especially at the sprawling fringes, is a challenge across city departments.

The changing demographics within those growth areas also present unique challenges to police.

Police Chief Bill Citty said the department's goal is to get more bilingual officers in the door, and continue and expand Spanish-language training for current officers to better communicate with the surging Hispanic population in Oklahoma City.

Councilmen Pete White and Ed Shadid urged Citty to continue efforts to connect with city residents who are here illegally to assure them they won't be turned into federal immigration authorities simply for reporting a crime someone committed against them.

Community outreach to other minority residents was also a theme of the meeting, with Councilman Skip Kelly and others singling out the Police Athletic League involving schoolchildren as an example to be built upon.

“We've got probably 1,500 to 1,800 inner-city Hispanic kids in our PAL soccer program,” Citty said. “We see a lot of love out there on that soccer field between law enforcement and between that Hispanic community.”

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By the numbers

Oklahoma City budget

• $952 million: Total proposed Oklahoma City budget for fiscal year 2013.

• $183 million: Police department budget, the biggest of any city department.

• $5 million: Approximate value of assets forfeited by criminals funneled into police budget.

• $771,000: Cost to add 12 new patrol officers.

• $124 million: Fire department budget.

• $12 million: Cost for fighting fires in 2013.

• $69 million: Fire department cost for paramedic services.

• $15 million: City's portion, roughly half, of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) budget.

• $255,000: Estimated increased COTPA fuel costs for 2013.

• $15,000: Maintenance cost for new parking meters downtown.

Source: City of Oklahoma City. All numbers rounded.


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