Oklahoma City is planning to add officers to the police force.
The city is proposing that money for 40 new officers be included in the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year beginning July 1.
For the first time, the overall budget would exceed $1 billion. Included is an additional $1 million for the city bus system.
“It's moving in the right direction,” said John George, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union.
The police department additions would bring the authorized force level to 1,116, approaching the 1,250 officers George says are needed to serve the city's growing public safety needs.
The department has 986 officers now, George said, and more are set to join as recruits complete training.
In the meantime, money allocated for new officers will be used to pay overtime.
That's a strategy to “saturate high-crime areas” — which George called a “great idea ... until we actually get the manpower.”
The city runs two police training academies per year. Officials say recruits from one academy generally can offset retirements and departures from the force, while a second academy adds officers to the ranks.
Altogether, the budget plan calls for adding 51 jobs — the 40 police officers plus seven jobs in utilities and four in airports.
More could be added to the ranks of bus drivers by the public transit system, said Doug Dowler, the city budget director.
City Manager James Couch said in his budget summary that low unemployment, strong business growth and a renewed sense of civic pride were helping Oklahoma City move ahead as other cities continue to feel effects of the recession.
Couch said the city expects growth to slow in the coming year due to federal cutbacks in response to the sequester.
In the most recent reporting period, sales tax collections fell in late February and early March. It was Oklahoma City's first year-over-year decline in 18 months.
The sales tax is the city's single largest source of revenue.
Public review planned
The city council's finance committee will review the 663-page budget proposal in a series of public meetings between now and mid-June, when the budget will be adopted.
The presentation on the police budget will be next Tuesday. Utilities, including water service, will be discussed May 21. Airports, public transit and the fire department will be discussed June 4.