City budget shortfall hits $190 million: major cuts in the works

Updating the city’s latest financial projections, it looks like we’re staring at a nearly $200 million shortfall for the budget year, significantly reduced library and city rec center hours, and a possible 350-person layoff at city hall. And from what I can tell from reading this DMN story and watching WFAA-Ch. 8’s video about the budget shortfall, that’s the optimistic view.

Jeff Siegel has been detailing the city’s budget woes here on Back Talk since May 2008 (and he predicted a deficit this big last week), but only after the hotel referendum and council election has much of the council spent much time focusing on the problem. City manager Mary Suhm has been working the problem, of course, but it wasn’t mentioned much during the council election — I wonder why?

Anyway, the DMN‘s list of actions taken so far, along with planned cuts beginning Oct. 1 with the new budget year, include:

• $91 million already has been cut or saved from the budget for next year, by doing things like delaying the next bond issue from November until May 2010 to save $15.7 million.

• Despite the cuts and cutbacks, the 2009-2010 budget needs another $100 million in savings.

• Plans to lay off 350 city workers already are in the works, and four-day non-paid furloughs are going to be required for civilian workers.

• No cuts in the police force appear to be on the table right now, particularly given the dramatic strides in reducing crime so far this year being reported by the department.

• Libraries will be closed for a couple of days per week, and hours will be cut back at the city’s rec centers, with some closed all-day Saturday.

• There’s some question about whether taxes will be raised to help close the shortfall.

All in all, it looks like even as the stock market starts crawling upward, the second shoe is getting ready to drop here in Dallas and at cities throughout the country as the implications of the enormous property and sales tax decreases come home to roost.


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