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City Council reviews 2015-16 budget plan

NORMAN DOTSON | 9/19/2015, 10:05 a.m.
The total proposed budget for the city of Dallas has been submitted for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and there are ...

The Dallas Examiner

The total proposed budget for the city of Dallas has been submitted for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and there are increases projected in many departments. In a series of presentations sponsored by the Dallas City Council, community members of each district received an overview of the proposed budget and were given an opportunity to ask questions to their respective councilmember throughout August.

According to the presentation, the total proposed budget is estimated to be roughly $3.1 billion, which is a 9.75 percent increase to the 2014-2015 totals of nearly $2.8 billion. This amount is split into two large budgets: the operating budget that details how much the city spends on services and the capital budget that covers what the city is investing in. The operating budget, which receives $2.4 billion in the proposed budget, has been broken down into three categories: enterprise fund, debt services and the general fund.

With $1.1 billion, the general fund would be the largest fund in the budget, taking up 37 percent of the overall annual proposal which serves to fund a dozen different departments of Dallas’ infrastructure such as public safety and housing. The police department would receive $452.8 million, which accounts for 40 percent of the general fund’s expenses, making it the largest expense for this fiscal year, according to the presentation charts.

The general fund’s revenue has been broken down into four parts that serves to fund its $1.1 billion expenditures, property taxes – largest of the four revenue sources at $559.6 million – account for nearly half of the money put into the fund at 49 percent, followed by sales taxes of $281.3 million at 25 percent, other revenue of $196.7 million accounts for 17 percent, and lastly franchise fees with $107.2 million covers the remaining 9 percent.

“Public safety is a large concern for the city so ensuring that the police and fire departments have what they need as far as funding explains why they receive so much in funding,” said District 4 Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold during the budget meeting in her district.

This would be a $14.8 million increase from the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which also set record lows for crime in 2014. However, violent crime has seen an increase of 10 percent according to recent crime statistics for 2015. The increase in funding will allow the police force to hire more public officers, which is projected to be about 30 and 200 for attrition. Also $1 million would go to addressing the issues of the violent crime increase. The fire department is also receiving an additional $12.1 million, which will provide funding for 65 firefighters to receive paramedic training according to section D of the presentation. It also gives people minor details of the other expenses this fund will cover such as $54.3 million for street and alley maintenance, adding 15 positions under the code compliance department, providing $500 thousand for Senior Program Division, and funding the expansion of library service that is increasing their amount of service hours throughout the city.

The increases raised many questions from district community members, specifically how they affect the services rendered in the individual districts. During the open questions part of the meetings, citizens asked what appeared to be the major concern of the budget, which is how exactly will these improvements benefit their communities and how much will these districts be receiving from the budget? Arnold, nor District 8 Councilman and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Erik Wilson, could not answer that question with direct figures during the meeting. The councilmembers stated that the individual budget projections were not included in this projection as of yet, but reassured that the public will be presented with them whenever they come in.

The city also provided a list of long-term improvements and investments that are to be funded through the capital budget. With a total of $694.6 million, 42 percent would go toward flood protection and storm drainage, 32 percent would be spent on water utilities and 12 percent on streets and thoroughfares. The remaining 14.8 percent would be divided between economic development, equipment acquisition, city facilities, aviation facilities, parks and recreation, convention and event services, and cultural facilities.