Dallas property owners avoided a tax rate hike in the proposed $2.7 billion city budget released late Monday.
Higher than expected property values reported in July helped avoid the rate hike City Manager Mary Suhm expected to recommend when she first confronted a $130 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.
"The really good thing for us is that the property base did not go down as much as we thought it was going to go," she said. "That was about $20 million. That was a huge help, and I think the budget would have looked a lot different if we had had to find that $20 million."
Her proposal still calls for deep spending cuts, including 450 employee layoffs, unpaid furlough days for all employees, wage reductions for civilian workers and service cuts.
Parks, recreation centers and libraries will again face reductions, and past cuts to street maintenance and other city services will not be restored.
Suhm said city services should not remain at this level in the future.
"I'm happy that we've been able to maintain them where they are, but ultimately, I don't think they should stay there for a long time," she said.
Suhm said her budget is intended to position the city for a rebound when revenues improve.
"We're immensely competitive when you look at us nationally," she said. "We're not having the economic challenges that other cities do. We're growing."
Mayor Tom Leppert said a tax increase would threaten that competitive position.
"If we can grow the economy, that's going to address the issues," he said. "That's going to provide more resources. Increasing taxes doesn’t help the people we have today, and it sure doesn't encourage more people and businesses to move to our city."
But several City Council members say cuts have been too severe and a small tax rate hike is needed.
"You look at our curb appeal, and you see high weeds," Councilman Tennell Atkins said. "Would you invest in the city that's not got a great curb appeal?"
Atkins said voters were warned that a tax rate increase would be needed to pay for the bond issue approved in 2006.
"And we have not done that, so therefore, we are suffering with customer service," he said. "We've got all these layoffs."
Final budget decisions will come in September.
Before then, a series of community meetings will be held to take public input on the spending plan. The plan will also be discussed at Monday's City Council meeting.