Budget Townhall Meeting – Thursday, Aug. 12th

Please join me and Councilmember Sheffie Kadane for a presentation of the City Manager’s proposed budget for 2010-11:

Thursday, August 12
St. Thomas Aquinas
6306 Kenwood

The proposed budget can be found at www.dallascityhall.com.

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City Should Show More Fiscal Restraint With Bond Program

Today the council approved the issuance of $164.5M in bonds in March 2010. We will also issue $350M in commercial paper in October. Borrowing this money is going to increase our debt payment next year by about $6.8M. At a time when next year’s budget is facing critical cuts, I cannot support the extent of this bond sale.

We need to move forward on bond projects which are critical to maintaining and improving our city’s infrastructure. We’ve seen what can happen when we are derelict in our upkeep — we face more expensive fixes in the future. We can also recover substantial savings on projects we undertake right now while construction costs are down. But we must be very judicious and conscious of what our city budget will look like next year, and borrow only the amount of money we can afford. This year’s budget cut not just fat, but muscle and bone. We laid off employees, cut city programs and reduced services to our citizens. For next year’s budget, we’ll have to cut even deeper if we don’t want to raise property taxes. Given that reality, it doesn’t make sense for us to dig ourselves $6.8M deeper into the hole.

Instead, we should borrow slightly less money this year so that we won’t have to pay more in debt payments next year. We could reduce the March tranche of bonds just slightly (to eliminate the $1.3M in next year’s additional debt service) and reduce the October commercial paper sale a little more (to eliminate the $5.5M in additional debt service). When we get a better idea of our financial condition in the coming year, we can consider rescheduling any delayed project as soon as it’s financially responsible and we can afford it.

For these reasons, I voted against the city manager’s proposal, which will increase our budget expenses by $6.8M next year. (All other councilmembers supported the proposal.)

Flashback: Budget 2008-09

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, Angela, you must be psychic. How else to explain your eerily accurate prediction one year ago that the impending economic recession would reduce revenue to the city, reveal the city’s budget forecast as overly optimistic, and necessitate mid-year service cuts?”

Indeed, how else to explain it other than telepathy?

I began dabbling in the clairvoyant arts last year around this time in an effort to see into our city’s financial future. I started out by reading tea leaves (and by “tea leaves” I mean “newspapers”), which foretold ominous fiscal tidings: Lehman Brothers would file for Chapter 11. AIG would go down in flames. Bank of America would take over Merrill Lynch.

And that wasn’t all. My crystal ball/television revealed more otherworldly insights: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be placed in conservatorship. Congress would plunge $700 billion into Wall Street to try to stop the hemorrhaging. And Washington Mutual would become the largest bank failure in American history. Ahem. Continue reading

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:
piechartbudget
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

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:

BUDGET ITEM TOTAL SAVINGS
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
TOTAL SAVINGS: $426,654

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.

City Budget – Learn More and Come to My Townhalls

At the end of September, the Dallas City Council will vote on next year’s budget.  I will be holding four townhall meetings to explain the proposed budget and get your input.  I’m writing to invite you to my upcoming meetings, but more importantly, to update you on the challenges we’re facing.

The current economy has left no one unscathed, including our city.  Next year, we anticipate that the money the city collects from property taxes, sales taxes, and city fees will be down significantly.  As a result, the city will have to tighten its belt.

Last week, the City Manager presented her proposed budget to the City Council.  The council will now review and revise this budget.  I have been analyzing the City Manager’s proposal very carefully, and here are some of the highlights:

  • No property tax rate increase
  • Hire 191 police officers (91 w/federal grants, 100 w/city funds)
  • Invest $106M bond funds in major street improvements; continue basic street repairs, but eliminate slurry seal
  • Reduce median and park mowing from 2 weeks to 3 weeks
  • Reduce tree trimming and litter programs
  • Add $500k to Code Compliance for more code officers
  • Cut library hours (40 hrs/wk for branches; 44 hrs/wk for central)
  • Cut rec center hours (45 hrs/wk for large; 30 hrs/wk for small)
  • Close 14 out of 21 pools
  • Consolidate city depts. from 31 to 22 (combining Development Services w/Building Inspection, and Library w/Cultural Affairs)
  • Go to citywide once-a-week trash and recycling pick-up
  • Reduce employee pay by 2% via five unpaid vacation days
  • Reduce 311 call-taking from 24/7/365 to 7am-7pm Mon.-Fri.
  • Contract with non-profit to manage zoo (most top zoos in country are managed this way, as are many city-owned facilities)
  • Lay off 840 employees (including 165 non-uniformed police employees)

I have some concerns about this budget, and will continue to review it and analyze it over the coming weeks.  My goal is to realize as many efficiencies as possible, limit the long-term damage of these deep cuts, and develop a good “exit strategy” as we come out of this downturn.

We will have to weather this economic storm together, make some tough choices, and sacrifice some city services in the short-term.  I deeply value your input, so please review the proposed budget at www.dallascityhall.com.  I’ll also post my analysis in upcoming blogs.

At the end of September, the Dallas City Council will vote on next year’s budget. I will be holding four townhall meetings to explain the proposed budget and get your input. I’m writing to invite you to my upcoming meetings, but more importantly, to update you on the challenges we’re facing.

The current economy has left no one unscathed, including our city. Next year, we anticipate that the money the city collects from property taxes, sales taxes, and city fees will be down significantly. As a result, the city will have to tighten its belt.

DISTRICT 14 BUDGET MEETINGS:

All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.

 

Tuesday, Aug. 25

St. Thomas Aquinas

3741 Abrams

(with Councilmember Kadane)

 

Monday, Aug. 31

Frontiers of Flight Museum

6911 Lemmon Ave.

 

Tuesday, Sept. 1

The Village Country Club

8308 Southwestern Blvd.

 

Thursday, Sept. 3

Arlington Hall @ Lee Park

3333 Turtle Creek

 

 

Text Box: DISTRICT 14 BUDGET MEETINGS: All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.  Tuesday, Aug. 25 St. Thomas Aquinas 3741 Abrams (with Councilmember Kadane)  Monday, Aug. 31 Frontiers of Flight Museum 6911 Lemmon Ave.  Tuesday, Sept. 1 The Village Country Club 8308 Southwestern Blvd.  Thursday, Sept. 3 Arlington Hall @ Lee Park 3333 Turtle Creek This week, the City Manager presented her proposed budget to the City Council. The council will now review and revise this budget. I have been analyzing the City Manager’s proposal very carefully, and here are some of the highlights:

· No property tax rate increase

· Hire 191 police officers (91 w/federal grants, 100 w/city funds)

· Invest $106M bond funds in major street improvements; continue basic street repairs, but eliminate slurry seal

· Reduce median and park mowing from 2 weeks to 3 weeks

· Reduce tree trimming and litter programs

· Add $500k to Code Compliance for more code officers

· Cut library hours (40 hrs/wk for branches; 44 hrs/wk for central)

· Cut rec center hours (45 hrs/wk for large; 30 hrs/wk for small)

· Close 14 out of 21 pools

· Consolidate city depts. from 31 to 22 (combining Development Services w/Building Inspection, and Library w/Cultural Affairs)

· Go to citywide once-a-week trash and recycling pick-up

· Reduce employee pay by 2% via five unpaid vacation days

· Reduce 311 call-taking from 24/7/365 to 7am-7pm Mon.-Fri.

· Contract with non-profit to manage zoo (most top zoos in country are managed this way, as are many city-owned facilities)

· Lay off 840 employees (including 165 non-uniformed police employees)

I have some concerns about this budget, and will continue to review it and analyze it over the coming weeks. My goal is to realize as many efficiencies as possible, limit the long-term damage of these deep cuts, and develop a good “exit strategy” as we come out of this downturn.

We will have to weather this economic storm together, make some tough choices, and sacrifice some city services in the short-term. I deeply value your input, so please review the proposed budget at http://www.dallascityhall.com. I’ll also post my analysis on my website at http://www.angelahunt.com.