Other services, like libraries and parks, while not essential to people’s physical survival, are vital investments in other aspects of our wellbeing. Still others, like education, are provided by other agencies, but require support and partnerships with City government.
serveokc, the public services element, addresses public safety, water, sewer, solid waste disposal, libraries, and educational services. Some of these subjects have been raised in the context of other issues, and are strongly related to such questions and policy issues as community growth directions, circulation, land use policy, and neighborhood character and integrity. For example, dispersed and inefficient land use patterns raise the cost of public services and increase the amount of sewer and water lines and streets needed to serve our population. Connected street patterns that provide multiple routes into and out of neighborhoods can save lives during emergencies. Neighborhood design and building conditions have a direct impact on police and fire services. As Oklahoma City evolves and grows, maintaining a level of services that meets citizens’ needs and expectations will continue to be a challenge.
This section provides an overview of Oklahoma City’s public services and their challenges, followed by a series of initiatives to maintain and improve these services, ensuring that Oklahoma City remains a safe, clean, and culturally rich place to live. Although Oklahoma City’s array of services are diverse, there are several common economic challenges.
Revenues. Oklahoma statutes limit tax-based funding of routine city operations to sales taxes, and there are limited additional options for cost recovery. In many cases, the actual amount of service costs recovered is unknown. This strains city’s finances and may contribute to diminished service in the long run.
Unused buildings. There are a relatively high number of unused buildings in Oklahoma City which demand an outsized amount of public resources – such as police, fire, and code enforcement – and contribute to neighborhood deterioration.
Development density. Chapter Two explored the relationship between development patterns and cost of services. It showed that continuing Oklahoma City’s past history of low density development increases the cost of public services such as police, fire, and waste management. The Oklahoma City Fire Department, for example, struggles with achieving consistent response times because number of houses reachable within a specific time decreases with density. Consequently, more facilities are needed to maintain a target response time, with resulting increases in capital and operating cost. Similarly, low density development creates a need for more feet of water and sewer lines to serve a specific number of households, greater distances to libraries, more police officers to cover greater distances, and a range of other problems. Maintaining the status quo can be an expensive choice for the city’s taxpayers. The other choice, reducing service standards of vital and sometimes life-and-death services to meet budget constraints, is also a very high price to pay for inefficient development.