Last night’s town-hall budget meeting for District 11 and 13 at Churchill Recreation Center was a bit calmer compared to last year, particularly since there’s no tax hike on the table right now. Crime is down. We’re hiring 200 more police officers and 200 additional firefighters. However, some areas were still hit hard.

You can see the general overview in the video above, which shows a property tax revenue reduction due to declining property values – that accounts for more than $65 million of lost revenue. Officials expect to see a slight increase in sales tax revenue. The general fund is flat except for a less than one-tenth increase. About 100 civilian employees are being laid off as the city works to streamline operations. The majority of the budget of course goes toward public safety. Expect to see the water rate increase by about 6 percent.

Cultural arts centers took a 10 percent reduction, which spurred several representatives to speak out at the meeting. Libraries and recreation centers are maintaining 40 hours per week but with cuts in staffing. Members of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library pointed out that the city under-funds its libraries when compared to other major Texas cities despite that fact that we have some of the highest usage.

District 13 councilman Ann Margolin suggested utilizing more private funding for libraries, although that’s not a fix-all. “I’m very concerned about the fact that there are reductions in our materials budget,” she said. “We’re still looking at the library issue.”

In regard to parks, Margolin and councilman Linda Koop (District 11) both addressed the issue of how voters missed an opportunity to redirect funds for more park services in Dallas. The city tried to sell the land around Lake Ray Hubbard since most people who use it don’t live in Dallas. But the public voted against the sale.

“If it in fact gets on the budget again, we need to do a better job of communicating that we’re not just selling off our parks, the money is going back into the park system,” Margolin says.

This should be of particular interest to folks in North Dallas, they say, since we have such a limited amount of green space.

Other age-old concerns arose, including street repairs. Koop says she hopes to get the issue into the next bond program. “We need to pay more attention to our streets. We hope to see it in the next bond program. If we just do the bare minimum, it ends up costing us more down the road.” But for now, it’s a call-in system. If no one calls it in, it doesn’t get fixed. “Our pothole repair is three to five days,” Koop says.

Wednesday’s city council agenda includes discussion about the tax rate, and whether to authorize a public hearing if a tax hike comes up for a vote. But Maroglin says that’s simply a legal formality, and there’s no indication of a tax increase at all.

“My prediction is that we won’t call a public hearing,” Margolin says.

If you missed last night’s meeting, there a couple more opportunities coming up. Koop will hold another District 11 town-hall at 6:30 tonight at Fretz Park Library. For District 13, Margolin has a meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Walnut Hill Recreation Center.

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