By JOSH NEWTON
Tahlequah city councilors this week approved two amendments that decrease budgeted funding originally granted to the Tahlequah Police Department by state and federal agencies.
Several Tahlequah residents have questioned the cuts, believing the police department had failed to take advantage of nearly $6,000. But city officials said there’s more to the story.
A decrease was approved for nearly $5,000 in a Special Weapons and Tactics-Reserve Equipment fund, which had been awarded by the Department of Justice in 2009 for $26,416. A second reduction of more than $1,100 was made in an impaired-driving enforcement fund given by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, which was originally $21,000.
A spokesman for the Tahlequah Police Department said the funds not expended from the SWAT grant were a result of overestimated costs for equipment. As part of the DOJ’s requirement for the grant, expected expenditures had to be listed in line-item form. If the department overestimated the cost of an item, the balance of the award for that item could not be used for any other piece of equipment.
Of nearly $5,000 that went unused by the end of the SWAT grant period, the majority – $3,000 – was left in an account for a basic operator course, which costs much less for officers to attend than originally expected.
Most of the $1,100 decrease from the OHSO Impaired Driving Enforcement Grant III was in unused overtime funds for officers. The TPD spokesman said officers must meet certain criteria to receive the overtime funds, so work schedules and available manpower play a large role in determining which officers are able to work the added enforcement, and when.
The department is now operating special emphasis projects with the OHSO Impaired Driving Enforcement Grant IV.