Dallas budget might bring new fee

Water bill would reflect road maintenance charge

DALLAS -- Dallas residents would pay an extra $1.50 on their monthly water bill under a plan to keep roads in good shape.

That fee comes as part of a budget presented to Dallas' budget committee April 15.

Most city services will tread water this year, not counting public safety. Police, fire and ambulance funding would increase to keep pace with inflation and increased demand.

Water and street projects make up some of the other increases in this year's budget. "When people ask where we're spending our money this year, I tell them `a lot of infrastructure improvements,'" City Manager Roger Jordan said.

The proposed budget again uses the City's "rainy day" fund, money set aside for hard times. Jordan estimates that fund will be halved in the next two years.

"This is one of the most difficult budgets I've had to put together," said Jordan, Dallas' budget official.

"The revenue in all of our funds has been affected by the recession."

Beyond freezing spending in most departments, the budget would cut city employees' hours. A recreation coordinator and a library assistant would both see their hours reduced.

Jordan said he designed the cuts to have the least impact on the average person. "Most citizens in Dallas won't know the difference."

The Dallas Aquatic Center continues to draw money from the rainy day account. Last year, the center took in 42 percent of its costs from fees, below the goal of 50 percent.

The proposed budget anticipates the aquatic center earning around 55 percent of its expenses through the fees.

In the general fund, only the police department uses more money than the aquatic center.

The proposed budget actually tops last year's by more than $3 million. But that includes a $4 million public safety bond that might come before voters this fall.

In fact, the bond -- for expanded public safety buildings and new equipment -- might not get on the ballot until the 2004 election.

Even during a time of tight budgets, Dallas officials hope to create a brand new job with the City. They'll know by the end of May if their proposal to hire a downtown manager was accepted.

That position, funded by grant money, would help coordinate the revitalization drive in Dallas' core.

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