Tulsa City Council Weighing $9.7M Proposal For Retention, Signing Bonuses Using Virus Relief Funds

Aug 4, 2021

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

As the Tulsa City Council begins consideration of a 4% employee retention bonus to be paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds, a signing bonus has been tacked on to the proposal.

The retention bonuses would spend about $8.7 million from the city’s $87.8 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funds. Those would go to employees with at least one year of service by the end of 2021.

Up to $500,000 is proposed for signing bonuses of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000, depending on the position. Mayor G.T. Bynum told councilors on Wednesday there are a lot of vacancies to fill — more than 200 according to city human resources.

"And we are competing with other employers who have signing bonus programs to try and get those people on our team," Bynum said.

Labor pool positions, parking and neighborhood inspectors, court reporters, and some office assistants are among those that would receive $1,000. Skilled trades like carpenters, electricians, plumbers and welders would get $2,000. Police academy hires would get $3,000 stipednds — $2,000 at signing and $1,000 the day before they finish the academy.

The city is also using the bonuses to get people to apply to its short-staffed 911 center.

"They would also receive $2,000 — $1,000 at signing and then $1,000 when they finish the academy. So, that would give them that incentive and push to complete that academy," said city HR Director Erica Felix-Warwick.

The proposed bonuses came from a working group that several city councilors are part of, including District 2 Councilor Jeannie Cue.

"Since I've been on the council — going on the 11th year — this has been a necessity to get positions filled. I just want to acknowledge and thank all our city people for working," Cue said.

The spending proposal includes another $500,000 for administrative costs related to American Rescue Plan funding oversight.

City councilors should vote on the bonuses next week.