Earlier this year, the city released the results of a community survey in which code enforcement ranked high on Dallas residents' list of priorities -- behind only public safety, infrastructure maintenance and health services. But the survey also revealed something else: A majority of those surveyed rank code enforcement as either "fair" (37 percent) or "poor" (23 percent) with only six percent of those asked giving it a score of "excellent." The only thing that scored worse in the city services category: maintenance of infrastructure.
But, should City Manager Mary Suhm's proposed budget survive tomorrow's budget workshop and beyond, do not expect code enforcement to improve. Because on Page 135 of tomorrow's budget briefing, you will find among the proposed budget cuts that Suhm's "team" does not recommend "funding for 12 vacant inspector positions that enforce and investigate violations of city regulations related to commercial and residential properties." To eliminate those positions, says the preliminary budget, would save the city $345,754.
Unfair Park was unable to reach anyone in Code Compliance today, but council member Angela Hunt says today that code enforcement should be "sacrosanct," along with the police and fire departments, and that Suhm will have to cut elsewhere.
"I don't think most Dallas residents realize how critically underfunded code is," Hunt says. "To me, that cut is troubling."
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That said, Hunt isn't about to propose a tax increase to help make up the $190-million budget deficit, $90 million of which has been tentatively trimmed. "It's not that tax increases are never appropriate," Hunt says. "But in this economy, I think that's a further burden we can't put on people who are living on the edge already."