City task force outlines plan to spend $ 50 million in funding for US Tulsa bailout

A task force this week presented a plan to spend $ 50 million of the $ 88 million in funding for the US rescue plan for the city of Tulsa.

Funds can be spent in a variety of areas, not just for recovery from a pandemic. Tulsa’s plan gives public safety the biggest share, $ 17 million. Almost $ 9 million will be used to purchase new fire trucks.

“By far, the main need of the service recognized by the Tulsa firefighters is the modernization of the fleet. It was allowed to become very run down. Thanks to the voters, we have funds to Improve our Tulsa, but it is not enough to replace as many fire trucks as needed. It would fill this gap, ”said Mayor GT Bynum.

The public safety allowance also includes money for the Tulsa Police Department to purchase body cameras and move its helicopter facility.

The task force recommended $ 11 million for economic development and tourism initiatives. The plan includes $ 7 million for a new tower at Tulsa International Airport. Bynum said the hope is that the airport and Tulsa County will inject $ 7 million each, and the state will match the $ 21 million in local funding to replace the aging structure.

“The Oklahoma Aeronautical Commission has declared this to be the most urgent airport project in the entire state. And so, we hope to gain support not only locally, but also from other communities and from the state government, ”Bynum said.

Bynum said potential federal funding could be denied because the Federal Aviation Administration did not originally build the tower.

The task force’s plan calls for spending $ 7.5 million on justice reform. Part of this sum is intended for municipal court initiatives such as extending the opening hours of hearings, simplifying the payment of fines and costs and providing additional support to public defenders. These measures were recommended by another group working to address racial disparities identified in Tulsa’s justice system.

“ARPA funds give us a pretty unique and very rare opportunity to deliver on many of the promises we made in the equality indicator meetings we have had, especially around equitable access. to everyone in our community, ”said Councilor Phil Lakin.

Recommended spending for justice reform includes $ 1 million for the Saving Our Homes initiative. Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper said it would involve an escrow account and other help so fewer people lose their homes because they fall behind on property taxes.

“We know that at the state level and this is mandated by the state, you can only split your property tax payments into no more than two payments. Where, if people had the option of making monthly payments for their property taxes, they would have a better chance of paying, ”Hall-Harper said.

Public health needs and infrastructure are also in line for funding if city council approves the spending plan next month.

The city has already allocated $ 18 million of its ARPA funding, putting it into initiatives such as employee retention bonuses, local nonprofit grants, and a vaccination incentive. The money comes in two 50% distributions, so items the city recommends for funding may not get it right away.

ARPA funds must be committed before December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.

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