The City of Dallas cannot possibly be shocked that it is having budget difficulties. So is almost everyone.
Dallas expects to come up $58 million short, and it has proposed solutions, some of them dubious. It has ordered department heads to slash their budgets by 10 percent, and if they can’t make decisions about their own budgets, budget officers will do it for them.
County employees will have to forego salary raises for the second consecutive year, and a new 90-day hiring freeze has been initiated.
Judge Foster posits that increased fees will close the gap.
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“If someone has an automobile accident and we send the Sheriff out to investigate it, and they’re not a citizen of this county, then we need to put something in place so that we can assess them a fee,” Foster told KERA.
Another fee application: defensive driving courses.
Few people paying their tax bills on time this year also contributed to the shortfall, accounting for $3 million less in revenue thus far, according to Ryan Brown, the county’s budget director. In addition, more people are paying partial tax payments, though he expects income to pick up when the county begins collecting delinquent taxes.
Fines which were supposed to generate significant revenue for the district have slumped dramatically, amounting to $6.2 million less than expectations. Brown told commissioners, “People are just saying, ‘I can’t afford to pay.’”
It begs the question of whether raising fees would ameliorate the gap much.
Some expenditures the City Council might have avoided last year:
• Eighty three $1,200 flat-screen TVs for inmates at the Dallas County Jail, totaling $99,600
• $271,000 to enforce the new smoking ban which goes into effect April 10.
• A 103-inch plasma screen TV in the lobby of City Hall
• Refurbishing the City Hall Fitness Center with new state-of-the art Precor equipment, four new treadmills and three new gliders.
Not much can be done about it now, but hopefully the city will constrict superfluous expenditures such as these in their 10 percent budget cuts.
Holly LaFon is a Dallas journalist who has written and worked for various area publications including Examiner and D Magazine.