We’ve officially received the bad news: “Obviously these are just brutal, brutal budget cuts, but it has to be done,” Lake Highlands councilman Jerry Allen said on Wednesday. That means it’s time to look at the budget in practical terms. What can we cut? How can we lessen the pain?

The town hall budget meetings this week will be slick and well-scripted. The council members and city staff who attend will Power Point the audience with the doom and gloom, and tell us we need to buck up and do the best we can under the circumstances.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t offer a few suggestions. After all, they do work for us. After the jump, some questions to ask:

1. How accurate are these budget projections? Will we be in the same situation at this time next year, desperately cutting to make up for an un-projected deficit?

2. This budget is supposed to fund 200 extra police and keep code enforcement as current staffing levels. But will the money be spent, or will it stay in the budget and not be spent (particularly for code enforcement) as an unofficial way to save money?

3. Will the council do its bit and cut its office budgets and accept salary furloughs?

4. Will the city’s travel budget – and especially for foreign travel – be cut? If so, how much?

5. What cuts are planned for the city’s marketing/public relations programs?

6. Will the city take councilman Rasansky’s advice and trim 8 of the 15 jobs in the Trinity River project planning department?

7. What are the city’s tax increment financing obligations? Can these be reduced or deferred?

8. What reductions are being made in hiring consultants and in outsourcing services, like lawyers?

9. What can we save with a minimal tax increase? How much would an increase of $100 for an average home raise?

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