Taking an early glance at the 72-page budget briefing that the city council's Quality of Life Committee will thumb through today, we glean these few randomly highlighted cuts presented in no particular order of importance. Keep in mind, of course, that till City Manager Mary Suhm submits her final budget to the council at the end of the summer, these are merely recommended axes, but, hey, $190 million's gotta come from somewhere, as city officials keep saying they really, really, really don't want to raise taxes.
So, from where, precisely, will these pennies come from? Well ...
From the Dallas Zoo, for starters, where funding will be cut for 19 exhibits, among them The Hill and Snout Route. Says the briefing, "Animals will be sold to or adopted by agencies." (Attention, Margaret Morin!) Also: "The monorail will operate weekends only."
The staff only recommends funding a fraction of the city's 21 community swimming pools, which serve 135,000 participants. Fourteen look to be safe for now, though originally that number had dropped to seven in earlier proposals. And there had also been talk of completely shuttering for the coming fiscal year the Bahama Beach water park. But the loss of revenue would have been tremendous: $761,637 if all the pools and the water park got the ax. So the City Manager's Office is now offering to keep Bahama Beach open for only 21 days during the summer. Also at risk should the pools stay empty: "The opportunity to conduct the 1,650 Teach A Child To Swim lessons will be lost."
Parks upkeep is way do on the must-do list. The current bid eliminates 72 full-time positions, among them 32 day laborers. And it reduces mowing cycles from every two weeks to every three weeks; it also cuts back on litter clean-up -- from thrice weekly to, more likely, once. Also: the "elimination of weekend litter and graffiti abatement programs."
Speaking of the kids, rec centers will have their custodial positions trimmed too; all told, staff's recommending eliminating nearly 100 full-time positions at the recs, including assistants, and cutting back operational hours. It also "closes 1 DISD facility and 1 DHA facility." Which ones? Checking.
Eight hours will likely be trimmed from the downtown library's schedule, while neighborhood branches open on Sundays will likely close on, well, Sundays. And there could be extra hours trimmed from their schedules as well, but council members are fighting this one especially hard given stories like this one.
And, as you may have read in earlier budget proposals, the "team recommends reducing payment to Dallas Center for the Performing Arts from $1.7m to $800,000."
There's also a plan in place to cut funding from the city's cable-access channel, run by iMedia, which receives almost $400,000 to host the world's worst talk shows. Pete Oppel, formerly of The Dallas Morning News and the city's ex-public information officer, is fine with that: "I know I could have created and operated a superb TV station on just the money collected from the franchise fees alone. These clowns at iMedia (DCTV) who have been stealing from the taxpayers for years and giving us nothing in return (except to allow some of their closest friends to 'rent the barn and put on a show') should be able to do the same."
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Companies and folks to whom the city owes money will have to wait an additional 15 days for Dallas to pony up the dough: Page 51 says the City Manager's Office doesn't recommend funding 12 full-time positions in the accounts payable department, among them five data entry clerks and five auditing/approving clerks. Says the briefing doc, "These reductions will result in a 15 day increase (from 30 to 45 days) for Accounts Payable to process, audit, and issue payment after the invoice is received from the vendor."
The City Manager's Office would like to close, at least for one fiscal year, the Bachman Therapeutic Recreation Center, designed to "meet the leisure needs of persons with disabilities ages 6 and up." For now, though, it's fully funded. Also receiving restored money thus far: publicly funded art, which is at 25 percent the FY2008-'09 levels.
Among the City Hall offices affected: City Manager's Office (two full-time employees would be cut); the City Attorney's Office (one assistant city attorney and two part-time senior assistant city attorneys); the City Auditor's Office (where cutbacks "will result in fewer audits and investigations conducted"), the financial office (where cutbacks will mean the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report won't be finished by March 31) and City Facility Operation, Maintenance and Repair (where 10 full-time positions are expected to be eliminated, meaning the number of work orders completed at city-owned facilities in need of repairs "will be reduced from approximately 18,000 to 16,200 per year").
And that's just the beginning -- doesn't even mention expected cuts to HIV/AIDS education, outreach and prevention programs and longstanding police programs. Feel free to mention any other notable cuts offered in the briefing; surely some of you pay more attention to these docs than do a few of the council members. And are you sure you wouldn't mind just a teensy-weensy tax hike to cover some of these costs?