OKC Civic Life for Monday, June 22, 2020
OKCFD at 'Level Red'
The Oklahoma City Fire Department has instituted "Level Red" measures as pressure on manpower escalates due to COVID-19. As of Saturday, four firefighters had tested positive and 42 were quarantined. The situational response went to red when the number of green shift firefighters who are in quarantine surpassed 25, said Cameron Weems, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 157. Firefighters work 24-hour shifts, and those shifts are designated green, blue and red. There were 27 green shift firefighters in quarantine, with the others divided between the blue and red shifts.
Of note: At Level Red, leaves can be canceled to assure all rigs are staffed. Weems said Sunday was a day to "ease into it" and Monday the emergency measures would be fully implemented. "There will be a lot of moving parts," he said. "We're writing the book as we go."
IAFF, city settle
The firefighters' union and the city council agreed to a rollover of their existing labor contract, with no across-the-board pay raises for 2020-21. Total cost of the deal is $123.9 million. Besides base salaries, the contract includes estimated amounts of $16.8 million for health insurance, $12.8 million for pensions and $9 million for overtime. The department is budgeted for 999 uniform firefighter positions for 2021.
Of note: Settling labor contracts before the start of the fiscal year has been the exception rather than the rule in recent years. The council agreed to contract extensions for police and general workers' unions while negotiations continue. When those deals are ratified, provisions will be retroactive to July 1.
They said it
"Sending much love to any former student of mine ... as they breathe a little easier this week en route toward achieving the American Dream."
— Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper, remarking by text on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week upholding former President Barack Obama's executive action establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. DACA deferrals protect from deportation immigrants who arrived in the United States when they were children. Cooper is on leave from his job as a Jefferson Middle School teacher.
Sales tax revenue declines
Oklahoma City sales tax revenue for June is down 17.7% from the same month last year, showing how hobbled the retail economy was in April and May by the COVID-19 pandemic. May's sales tax revenue was down 16% after emergency orders shuttering non-essential businesses took effect in mid-March. June results are based on sales the last two weeks of April and first two weeks of May. Sales tax is Oklahoma City's single-largest revenue source, comprising together with use tax about 67% of the general fund, the primary account for day-to-day expenses. Dedicated sales taxes support MAPS 4, police, fire and the zoo.
Of note: Budget Director Doug Dowler said May and June results "reflect the significant economic impact of COVID-19 on the local economy." Budget managers project a 5% decline in sales tax for the 2021 budget year beginning July 1.
Mayor David Holt and all eight city council members attended last week's teleconferenced meeting.
• The council voted 6-3 to adopt the city manager's $1.66 billion, 2020-21 budget as proposed. Several dozen callers over three weeks of public hearings advocated ideas for "defunding" police or re-allocating funding to housing, education and other needs. As adopted, police department operating expenditures are cut 2.65%, to $204.1 million.
Facts and figures
• The city council approved funding for 1,200 uniform police positions in the 2020-21 budget.
• Actual expenditures under the $1.66 billion 2020-21 budget are likely to be about $1.1 billion, based on recent experience and assuming the city spends the entire $114.3 million sent by the federal government for pandemic response. Transit and airport authorities together received around $45 million in additional federal CARES Act funds to supplement budgets hammered by the pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
• The nonprofit Accelerator for America announced Oklahoma City would receive technical assistance and $50,000 to support financial assistance efforts for residents "whose livelihoods have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Oklahoma City Council will meet at 8:30 a.m. July 7.
Staff writer William Crum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @williamcrum