In About an Hour, We'll Have An Idea How Suhm Cut $190 Million From City Budget

Unfair Park might be a little slow-going 'round 1:30 this afternoon, when I'll be down at Dallas City Hall to pick up the executive summary of City Manager Mary Suhm's final budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. Media attending this afternoon's shindig won't be given the entire document, but Frank Librio, director of the city's Public Information Office, tells us the line-item budget will be available on the city's Web site tonight -- "probably after 7." Also available then: documents prepared for a Monday-morning city council briefing.

Suhm's scheduled to speak and take questions for about 45 minutes this afternoon; we'll wrap up accordingly. After several budget briefings held before the council took its summer recess, it's unclear from where Suhm found the $190 million to clear the deficit. But following one such briefing in June, council members acknowledged that "significant" cuts were coming -- "unavoidable," matter of fact. In recent months we've outlined myriad likely cuts -- everything from a reduction in library hours to a trimming in parks upkeep to garbage collection going to once a week to reductions in public health-care services.

Of course, some events have transpired in recent days to make Suhm's job just a little easier: Last week, the Dallas Police Department was told it's receiving $8.9 million in federal grants to pay for 50 officers for the next three years. And on Wednesday, the council will likely vote to turn over Dallas Zoo operations to the Dallas Zoological Society, saving the city $4.5 million in operating costs in the next fiscal year.

But harsh cuts are coming from everywhere as the city marches toward the September 23 stamp of approval. This morning alone, several preservationists have called Unfair Park with grave concerns over rumors that Suhm is going to propose consolidating the Landmark Commission and the City Plan Commission, following deep cuts to the city's historic preservation staff, currently under Development Services. We'll have answers shortly.

But as Suhm told Sam back in June, Mayor Tom Leppert's clear on this much: He won't raise taxes to cover the shortfall. "And I don't think the council will either," Suhm said.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky