City Budget Multimedia Extravaganza

If you aren’t yet tired of the city budget, then I’ve got the solution:  Even MORE budget information.

Below is a 45-minute video of my budget presentation to District 14 residents last week.  Like last year, I created my own Powerpoint to explain the city’s budget in what I hope is a comprehensible way.  If you’d like to see just the slideshow, you can view it here.

If that’s still not enough for you, you can peruse my handy Excel spreadsheets that I created to analyze the budget.

I hope you find this helpful.  As always, I welcome your feedback.

Why More Debt Is A Dumb Idea When You’re Broke

You know, the devil’s in the details when it comes to just about everything.  Especially government, and most especially, government budgets.

Take next year’s proposed city budget.  I’ve been through this thing line by line, with a fine-toothed comb, ever since we got the “final draft” in early August.  It’s a lot to digest.  Lots of numbers and all.  But some numbers are more important than others, and right now I want to focus on debt and its effect on our bottom line.

The city borrows money to make major infrastructure improvements, like constructing new libraries and police stations, building new roads, putting in new playgrounds in our parks.  These are bond projects approved by voters.  When we borrow money for these projects, we’re essentially putting them on the city’s credit card.

As with any credit card, the city has to make regular payments.  Next year, our credit card bill will be about 22% of our entire operating budget.  It’s the largest expense after police.  Take a look:
Next year, the city manager proposes to charge an additional $314 million to our credit card.  The critical question is: How will that affect our credit card payment? Well, it won’t make much of a difference next year.  It’s the following year we have to worry about.

See, if we decide to borrow $314 million next year, then the following budget year we’re going to be up a creek without a paddle.  Our credit card payment will jump by $24 million.  TWENTY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS.

Why am I shouting?  Because I’m worried about this.  Really worried.  Because if we have to spend $24 million more on debt repayment, that means $24 million less that we’ll have for all our other city services:  police, streets, parks, libraries, code, the arts, etc. Continue reading

Downtown Gets New Newsracks

Newsrack “condos” have begun replacing the clutter of individual racks in Downtown Dallas. All the individual newsracks in the foreground of the photo will be relocated into the newsrack condo in the background. The new newsracks are a partnership with between the City and the Dallas Morning News.

The new newsracks lessen the visual clutter in Downtown and make the sidewalks more walkable. I’ve been working on this for several years and it’s very exciting to see the newsracks finally installed.

Council Proposes Cuts to Council Budget

Councilmember Jerry Allen and I have been working with the rest of the council to develop a set of cuts to the council budget.  Last week, eleven councilmembers signed a memo to Mary Suhm proposing the following cuts to the council budget.  Here’s the text of the memo:

With the severe cuts needed to balance our city budget, every department will have to make sacrifices. That includes the budget for the Mayor and City Council offices.  In order to reduce our impact on the budget, we propose the following cuts, which will save nearly half a million dollars in the 2009-10 budget:

Eliminate paper agendas $148,000
Reduce Councilmembers’ office budgets by 25% $57,880
Reduce meals by 30% $9,600
Eliminate hand-delivery of packets $6,024
Eliminate hard-copies of interoffice memos (email only) $5,850
Reduce Councilmembers’ travel budgets by 15% $8,600
Eliminate two secretarial positions for Council offices $103,200
Postpone hiring of one Council office assistant for 3 mos. $17,500
Reduce Mayor’s office budget $70,000

The memo was signed by myself, and Councilmembers Jerry Allen, Ann Margolin, Linda Koop, Ron Natinsky, Delia Jasso, Carolyn Davis, Steve Salazar, Tennell Atkins, Pauline Medrano, and Dwaine Caraway.

Reminder: City Facilities Closed Friday, Sept. 4

As one of many initiatives implemented to address budget challenges, the City of Dallas is implementing a mandatory furlough program. The furlough program is in response to significant reductions in the City’s revenue as a result of the nation’s economic downturn.  To maximize the energy and personnel cost savings, the City has scheduled furlough days to coincide with holiday weekends.  As a result of the furlough policy, City offices will be closed for business on Friday, September 4, 2009 (furlough day) and Monday, September 7, 2009 in observance of Labor/Cesar E. Chavez Day.

Here is a partial list of closures (more info here): Continue reading