photoThe city’s proposed $2.81-billion budget restores some funding to library services that were cut after the recession. This budget’s funding for library materials matches that of the pre-recession 2007-2008 budget and would buy 600 new computers for city libraries.  But it doesn’t restore library hours and staff that were cut in 2010.

Most city libraries, including the main library downtown, are open just 40 hours a week. A notable exception is Hampton Illinois Library, which is open more than 50 hours a week, along with Arcadia Park Library.

While fewer than 20 neighbors attended a budget town hall meeting at the Bishop Arts Theater Center Thursday night, most of them argued for increased funding to libraries, arts and cultural programs. It’s great that some funding is being restored, but the city so far has not proposed a vision for the future of our libraries, cultural centers and parks, neighbors said.

“I’m a big believer in investing in amenities,” Councilman Scott Griggs said. Dallas doesn’t have natural amenities such as a seashore or mountains, “so we need to invest in the arts and our people.”

Here are more highlights from the proposed budget:

  • Hikes in the water rate (3.6 percent for residences) and sanitation rate (39 cents a month) would fund pay increases for sanitation workers.
  • The city would hire 20 new police officers.
  • The police department would buy 183 new squad cars.
  • Step pay increases for police would be restored in an effort to retain young officers.
  • 10 new 911 call takers would be hired, bringing the total to 110.
  • This budget would pay to train firefighters as paramedics as well as start a community paramedic program.
  • Mowing at city parks would become more frequent — every 10 days instead of every 12 days.
  • The city will begin replacing all of its traffic signals. The entire cost is expected to be about $200 million, which won’t be covered in this budget. The city also is seeking federal funds for that massive project.
  • The budget includes $500,000 to stripe bike lanes.
  • $3 million is budgeted for preventative street maintenance.
  • $2 million is budgeted for investments at Fair Park, including marketing efforts.

Several more budget town hall meetings are planned in our  neighborhood this month. City Council takes up the budget Sept. 4, and they are expected to approve it Sept. 18.