Dallas Police, Firefighters Under Budget Ax

City faces $79 million shortfall in next fiscal year

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dallas police officers and firefighters are not sacred this year as City Hall grapples with a $79 million budget shortfall.

    In the past few years, public safety was protected while other city departments took deep cuts to solve the city's budget woes.

    First Responders on the Chopping Block

    [DFW] First Responders on the Chopping Block
    The City of Dallas is facing a $70 million budget gap, and after years of avoiding public safety cuts, first responders are all on the chopping block.

    In that time, the police department even added about 700 officers.

    But City Manager Mary Suhm is suggesting a reduction of the police force by not replacing at least 100 officers who leave in the next year.

    The 2011-2012 budget proposal Suhm presented to the Dallas City Council on Wednesday also cuts Dallas Fire-Rescue manpower by the equivalent of three and a half fire-truck crews, reduces ambulance overtime and reduces paramedic training.

    Of $79.3 million worth of existing city services that are unfunded in the plan, Suhm said $59.3 million should be restored, including $45.8 million in public safety services.

    "That is our assignment between now and next month, is to reduce that 59 [million] and be sure those areas that should be funded are covered," Suhm said.

    D.D. Pierce, president of the firefighters union, said the cuts are a safety issue.

    "If they're not restored, that means on any given day, there are 3.5 fire companies that aren't in service," he said.

    Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hills said a reduction police recruiting is acceptable because training new hires takes a substantial period of time.

    Dallas crime rates have fallen in recent years, but Hill said she thinks a larger police force is only part of the reason.

    "I think the primary driver for crime reduction has been the way the police department has handled its business," she said.

    But other members are not sold on reducing public safety.

    They promise to not raise the property tax rate hike after an increase last year to reduce budget cuts, but hikes in city fees are possible.

    "Every single thing is on the table with the exception of raising taxes," Interim Mayor Dwaine Caraway said.

    The City Council will discuss the budget again in June.

    More: City Council Budget Workshop update