So what happens when I go out of town? The budget news gets even worse. Gee, maybe it’s my fault:
• Property tax. The early numbers say appraisals are down five percent, which could double by the time everyone is done appealing. And from the emails I have received and the people I have talked to, a lot of people will be appealing. About two-fifths of city revenue comes from the property tax.
• Library cuts. Apparently, we’ve decided that a world-class city doesn’t need a library system. The saddest part about this? That library officials seemed resigned to their fate, instead of raking some muck.
• Cops. Furlough cops? Cut their pay? How did we get from adding 200 police to this?
• Sales tax. The only reasonably good news. March’s collections actually exceeded the forecast. The bad news? We’re still five percent down from the budget. The sales tax accounts for about one-quarter of revenue.
I can’t decide if the city manager is gnashing teeth and rending garments to prepare us for a property tax increase or to prepare us for what will happen because there won’t be a property tax increase. What I do know is that I am completely worn out from hearing the bureaucrats downtown and Mayor Park Cities blame this mess on the recession.
Yes, the recession played its part. But an equally important part was played by Dallas officials — elected and otherwise — who refused to face facts in early 2008 when it became obvious to everyone but them that the economy was going to collapse.
That’s because they didn’t want to believe it. This two-year crisis is not about tax rates and how to fund the city budget, and whether we need to find something besides the property and sales taxes to pay for services. It’s about agendas, and the agenda downtown was to pretend that the recession wasn’t going to affect Dallas. Maybe it was to help Leppert run for the Senate. Maybe it was to help the council get re-elected in the spring of 2009. Maybe it was to polish city manager Mary Suhm’s reputation.
Whatever the case, we got a 2008-09 budget that raised spending 4.6 percent in the face of the worst recession in 30 years. It has been downhill ever since.
Here’s how loose officials around here are with budgets and forecasts. In New York, the estimate is that the 2014 Super Bowl will be worth $550 million. In Dallas, with a metro population one-third the size of New York’s, the estimate is that next January’s Super Bowl will be worth $611 million. How is that possible, unless the people making the forecasts have a goal other than accuracy?
The photo is from Sufi Nawaz of Bangladesh, via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license