City Hall

Inside the Numbers As Mary Suhm Tries to Put $32 Million Back in Next Fiscal Year's Budget

As promised, last night the city council received a new FY2011-12 budget update in advance of Wednesday's briefing, the last before summer break. And on the surface, it looks like better news: The $59.3-million shortfall City Manager Mary Suhm predicted in mid-May is now closer to $32.2 million, according to the latest briefing.

Says Suhm, that's because, in part, the anticipated decline in property tax revenue "may not be as great as previously assumed, the state and feds' budget impact "will be less" than anticipated, and the "sale of surplus property and abandonments will occur in FY 2011‐12 and generate additional revenue." And maybe gas won't go as high next year as she thought. It's all a bit ... iffy right now.

And even then, the good news is hardly that: The city manager's still anticipating layoffs (again), while most of the "found" $27.1 million will go toward public safety -- and even then, Suhm still doesn't have the money to add 50 police officers needed through attrition. She also doesn't have the money to maintain and repair streets and sidewalks at the current level, which is already a fraction of a fraction what it should be. Eight of 16 neighborhood pools will be closed; so too 14 rec centers.

Says the briefing, "Park land maintenance [is] funded at 64% of amount funded in current year," which is after years' worth of slashes already. Suhm hopes to get it to 82 percent. The current proposal also doesn't fund 93 positions at the downtown and branch libraries, and once again guts the amount of money spent on new materials -- from $419,730 to $79,573 at the central library; from $1,241,050 to $505,900 in the neighborhoods.

And then there's this:

Suhm is recommending spending $5,302,795 on paying the utility bills at 14 of the city's cultural facilities; that money also includes an "annual payment to support operations & utilities" at the budget-beleaguered AT&T Performing Arts Center and Dallas Black Dance Theater, the latter per a 2005 agreement.

But that $5.3 million also "includes an increase of $1m, from $500k to $1.5m, for ATTPAC," according to the 103-page preliminary budget ranking also sent to council. It doesn't explain the reason for the increase, but in FY2010-11 the city reduced AT&T PAC operations and utility support to $500,000.

Of course, nothing's set in stone yet: Suhm's still pushing solid-waste flow control as a way of generating millions more in revenue; there's another mammoth "Green Path from Trash to Treasure" presentation also scheduled for Wednesday. And the tax rolls won't even be certified for another two weeks.

Budget town halls don't even begin till August and run for a month; public hearings have to take place; and there are at least five more workshops scheduled between now and when the budget has to be adopted September 28.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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