Rcession strikes hard at City budget

Cuts reach every level of government

DALLAS -- The economic recession became official in Dallas April 21 when City Manager Roger Jordan presented next year's proposed budget to the city's budget committee.

The budget for the fiscal year starting in July calls for cuts in every department.

The new budget would cut spending more than $5 million below the current budget for a total of $27.3 million. Most City employees will not get a cost-of-living raise.

Jordan said he tried to make cuts with the least amount of impact to Dallas residents. But that wasn't always possible.

The proposed budget calls for the library to close on Sundays and not open until noon on Mondays and Wednesdays. Job cuts also mean patrons will wait longer for library services.

The police department will not fill a position lost to retirement this year. As a result, Dallas will no longer participate in the county-wide drug enforcement team. The code enforcement program will continue at full strength.

A school liaison officer will now also cover bailiff duties for city court. The court itself will no longer meet on Wednesday nights.

Community Development cuts will make planning for developers and residents who want to build take longer to process.

All city recreation programs will be discontinued except the donor-funded Sounds of Summer concert series. The city will continue to maintain ball fields in coordination with the Dallas School District.

The Dallas Aquatic Center has cut its hours. Family open swims occur only on Tuesday and Thursday nights and on Wednesday afternoons. If the pools aren't used more, further cuts could come to keep down operation costs, Jordan said.

The budget calls for less cleaning of city offices. All remaining custodial work will be contracted out.

Money coming in to the city hasn't kept pace with rising benefit and retirement costs, Jordan said. Police department expenses have also risen 3.5 percent.

Jordan expects to use up to $250,000 of the City's rainy day fund for the next year, using $165,000 and $97,000 the following two years, respectively, until the budget balances without it. The sewer, water and ambulance funds all use the rainy day fund, as does the general fund, which includes police, fire and the aquatic center.

The budget doesn't include any new taxes, Jordan said. Although he had proposed a charge for street maintenance earlier this year, the city council put that proposal on hold.

The council has decided that city streets need more money, Jordan said. It just hasn't decided where to get that money.

It could come from a state gas tax, a local fee or a ballot measure before voters.

"The council is keeping all its options open," Jordan said.

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