Fewer Cuts Than Feared in Dallas City Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Dallas faces more cuts in a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, but not as many as originally feared.

    Beginnging Monday night, Dallas residents will get to make their feelings known about the proposed 2011-12  city budget.

    Dallas city council members discussed the City Manager's proposed budget on Monday and were generally satisfied but had concerns about additional cuts to park maintenance, recreation centers and pools.

    A series of public meetings will be held from Aug. 8 through Sept. 6.

    Dallas residents would face a water rate increase but no property tax rate hike in the latest budget plan unveiled Thursday.

    "There are cuts involved in it, but not in the areas of public safety or streets or critical services," said Mary Suhm, city manager. "I also think it's conservative, and that's appropriate."

    In June, Suhm warned the City Council about a $32 million shortfall on top of several years of deep city budget cuts.

    Since then, the property values have declined less than expected and sales tax revenue has increased better than expected.

    Cuts in the state budget were also not as hard on Dallas as Suhm had feared.

    "So that enabled us to fund some things that we thought we might not be able to," she said.

    In June, Suhm warned that cuts in police and fire department manpower could be required.

    Instead, Thursday's plan includes hiring 200 more police officers to keep up with retirements and 200 more firefighters to reduce the use of overtime.

    On the down side, two recreation centers and five swimming pools would close, park maintenance would be reduced again, and 100 more civilian city employees would be laid off.

    "We've kept our spending flat, again because the economic condition is not as stable as we'd like it to be," Suhm said.

    The water rate increase of 5.9 percent would help pay for new pipelines to connect Lake Palestine to the city's water system.

    The City Council must approve a new budget before Oct. 1.