Budget Battle: Fiberglass Peaches Vs. City Services

City must close $99.5 million budget gap

After making deep cuts, Dallas is still facing a budget shortfall of nearly $100 million -- even while spending thousands on fiberglass decorations.

Falling tax revenue is a major cause of the shortfall, but city leaders do not want to raise property taxes in a bad economy to make up the $99.5 million shortfall.

"It’s an incredibly difficult budget," Councilwoman Angela Hunt said.

The latest city managers' budget plan includes furloughs and 347 employee layoffs. Park and street maintenance would also be cut, and fewer ambulances would be on the street at peak hours.

"My main concern is that we do not loose those basic services," Councilman Tennell Atkins said. "The people in the city of Dallas need those basic services."

City Manager Mary Suhm said Dallas could handle the maintenance delays she is proposing for a year or so.

"Over the long-term, they are very damaging," Suhm said.

The hiring of 200 additional police officers next year is among the programs yet to be covered in the budget. The city started the expansion last year to help cut a high crime rate, and most city leaders want it funded in the new budget.

"Public safety is the most important thing that we provide," Mayor Tom Leppert said. "And for us to cut that program out now when we’re only halfway through it, I do not think it would be appropriate."

But Councilman Mitchell Ransansky said there is still wasteful spending to be found.

"We’re spending $18,000 for some fiberglass peaches for decoration at The Farmers Market," he said. "Hello?"

The final budget for the next fiscal year must be balanced by Oct. 1.

"The good news is, we’re looking into the process early enough to have a meeting of the minds," Councilwoman Elba Garcia said.

Here is the full briefing presented Wednesday:

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