Fund­ing: More money sought

Tulsa World - - Our Lives -

mil­lion in sup­ple­men­tal funds to cover what its of­fi­cials de­scribe as an un­der­funded man­date from the Ok­la­homa Leg­is­la­ture.

Since 2004, the Leg­is­la­ture has re­quired the depart­ment to fund the med­i­cal in­sur­ance flex­i­ble ben­e­fit al­lowance for em­ploy­ees in the ca­reer tech­nol­ogy cen­ters, said Paula Bowles, spokes­woman for the agency.

Ini­tially, the Leg­is­la­ture pro­vided the agency with ex­tra funds to cover the cost, but those costs have in­creased as health costs have gone up, Bowles said.

The Leg­is­la­ture pro­vided ad­di­tional money to cover those in­creas­ing costs through 2009, but then stopped, she said.

The agency needs $25.4 mil­lion to pay for the ben­e­fit al­lowance but law­mak­ers only ap­pro­pri­ated $13.6 mil­lion for that pur­pose this fis­cal year, so the agency is ask­ing for the $11.8 mil­lion dif­fer­ence in a sup­ple­men­tal ap­pro­pri­a­tion, she said.

The agency has made sim­i­lar re­quests in past years, but has been re­jected, she said.

“That means less money is avail­able for class­rooms,” she said.

Also re­quest­ing sup­ple­men­tal funds are the Ok­la­homa Ed­u­ca­tional Tele­vi­sion Author­ity (OETA), the Ok­la­homa Merit Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion, Board of Medi­cole­gal In­ves­ti­ga­tions, and dis­trict courts.

OETA, which has been in­volved in a le­gal dis­pute with its foun­da­tion, is ask­ing for $1.705 mil­lion to re­place a 15-yearold trans­mit­ter that is lo­cated on top of what is known as Blue Moun­tain in a re­mote area of the state near En­ter­prise in Haskell County.

It's the only re­main­ing tube trans­mit­ter on the OETA sys­tem and the broad­cast en­gi­neer who main­tains it is sched­uled to re­tire in April. A new en­gi­neer may not have the skill set to main­tain it, OETA rep­re­sen­ta­tives told state of­fi­cials.

The trans­mit­ter is one of four on the OETA sys­tem. It serves the Eu­faula area, a large ru­ral por­tion of east­ern Ok­la­homa and parts of Tulsa County, said Dustin Pyeatt, the agency's di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. A lot of peo­ple rely on OETA for emer­gency alerts, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, he said.

The Ok­la­homa Merit Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion, a quasi-ju­di­cial body that in­ves­ti­gates and seeks to re­solve state em­ployee griev­ances, has sub­mit­ted a re­quest for $90,000 for an ad­di­tional per­son to in­ves­ti­gate and me­di­ate com­plaints.

Carol Shel­ley, the agency's ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the agency re­ally needs about $150,000 to hire two peo­ple and pay for their ben­e­fits. She said the agency would have enough money avail­able to hire one per­son if that per­son didn't have any de­pen­dents, though she ac­knowl­edged that wasn't an ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tion in a job in­ter­view.

The Board of Medi­cole­gal In­ves­ti­ga­tions is ask­ing for $651,000 to help re­cruit and re­tain foren­sic pathol­o­gists to per­form med­i­cal au­top­sies. Agency of­fi­cials say there is a na­tion­wide short­age of about 1,200 foren­sic pathol­o­gists and the agency has lost five physi­cians in the last two years be­cause they can go else­where and re­ceive higher pay.

Dis­trict courts are ask­ing for an ex­tra $2.5 mil­lion.

Jari Askins, ad­min­is­tra­tive di­rec­tor of the courts, said a small por­tion of the re­quested money would be used to give pay raises to court re­porters who were omit­ted from last year's state em­ployee pay raise while the bulk would be used to cover nor­mal court ex­penses.

Askins said re­quest­ing a sup­ple­men­tal ap­pro­pri­a­tion is some­thing the court sys­tem has to do prac­ti­cally ev­ery year be­cause the Leg­is­la­ture rou­tinely fails to ap­pro­pri­ate enough money to cover all court ex­penses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.