Sea of red ink enveloping Dallas City Hall

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 8:03 PM

DALLAS — The Dallas City Council got its first look Wednesday at what's ahead for next year's budget — and the view is an ocean of red ink.

The revenue gap is somewhere between $41 and $96 million. No one is talking tax increase yet, but there will be cuts for sure.

And there is another new ingredient this time: Election year politics.

With property taxes forecast to drop again and sales taxes appearing flat, the city is looking at a budget that — at the very least — will require cuts to balance.

“This is very early in the process," cautioned  Jeanne Chipperfield, the city's chief financial officer. "As we get more information, we continue to do our analysis, the numbers will change.”

On spending, there is new pressure. The city must look at millions of dollars to restore police overtime that was cut this year. The department needs to buy 200 new patrol cars. 

One idea being floated: Raising $13 million by increasing trash intake at the McCommas Bluff landfill. 

That talk fell flat with southern Dallas Council members like Carolyn Davis.  “All the trash will be dumped in the southern sector and I will not be supporting that,” she said.

And then there's the politics.

Lame duck Mayor Tom Leppert, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate, won't cast a final vote on this budget, but weighed in with comments tailored for a campaign.

“Those are all just kind of numbers on a piece of paper, because the number in the end is going to have to be zero," he said. "We are going to have to live within our means.”

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway voted to raise taxes last year, but this year he's looking at a run for Leppert's seat in May.

“Everybody write it down: I will not be raising taxes this budget,” Caraway said.

Another negative factor as the Council works this budget in the months ahead is cuts at the federal and state levels that could push costs down to the city.

Regardless when the budget becomes effective, it must be balanced on October 1.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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