Dallas County, DA End Budget Wrangle

Watkins, county commissioners reach agreement on cuts

After months of public dispute, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has reached an agreement with county commissioners over his 2010 budget.

In light of a $58 million budget deficit, Dallas County commissioners called for all departments to trim their budgets by 10 percent. But Watkins argued that the loss in staff would decrease productivity in the office and be harmful for the county.

He initially agreed to $1.4 million in cuts, but the county commissioners wanted $3.1 million.

Watkins held town hall meetings as he made a public plea to save his office's efficiency.

In the final agreement, Watkins agreed to lay off three attorneys and one staff member. Felony prosecutors will take a three-day furlough, and Watkins will come up with about $400,000 by instituting various fees. 

The compromise also includes an agreement from Parkland Memorial Hospital to pay for two medical fraud prosecutors, and Watkins' office will contribute $600,000 of its discretionary money to a new fingerprinting system in jails or toward other law enforcement equipment, the Dallas Morning News reported.

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