Back at City Hall, Listening In As Mary Suhm Nails Down the City's Budget Shortfall

Categories: City Hall
Mary_Suhm_062310_Merten.jpg
Sam Merten
We're back in not-so-executive session, breezing through the rest of the council's agenda so Mayor-For-Now Tom Bailey Leppert can hop a flight for his swan song at the US Council of Mayors.

First, though, Dave Neumann apologizes for his last motion to defer the gas drilling applications till October 12 -- because, the City Attorney's Office informs him, the council wasn't slated to meet that day. Neumann denies Carolyn Davis's hilarious suggestion that he'd done that on purpose, and, respectfully, moves to bump it back to October 26. Which the council does.

First, City Manager Mary Suhm has asked members of the city's "key focus area teams" to introduce themselves, prompting approximately 84 percent of the city's payroll to parade through the room to introduce themselves, one at a time, while the rest of the room checks their BlackBerries and a KERA reporter thumbs through Parade magazine.

After the jump, though, an early look at the 2011-2012 budget, and a tighter estimate of that $41- to 96-million budget shortfall.

We begin with a walk-through of this budget workshop PowerPoint memo from Jeanne Chipperfield, who says the city could take in anywhere from $3 million more to $45 million less next year. The city's expenditures, she estimates, will go up anywhere from $51 to $44 million -- including, among other things, the increase in fuel prices, and how many mandatory leave days the city cuts next year.

Another lingering question: how the city's going to have to respond to the budget cuts at the Lege this year to absorb that huge deficit the state's facing.

Join me in the comments for the council's questions for Chipperfield and Suhm.
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29 comments
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denimesasx
denimesasx

Caraway is still talking. He says he knows he is harping Fair Park, but really, look at the missed opportunities there, then Jerry Jones.

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Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Shhhhh Don't tell any one but ........GOLD I TELL YOU GOLD has been found in OAK CLIFF.

What if
What if

Patrick, this is the funniest read I've had all week. Who'd of thought a budget discussion could be such a hoot! And, I hope and pray we never lose Carolyn Davis. Her comments at City Hall meetings always entertain me. But, seriously, if we put a liquor store on the first floor of City Hall with cheap wines and beer in tall boys, sell lotto tickets...hmmmm Davis may be on the right track.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

What a bunch of clowns our elected council members are. Time for a massive change - back to the private sector for each and every one of them!

Ellum08
Ellum08

Davis is Davis. Again, she doesn't seem to grasp the concept that things need to be cut.

Hill wants a new landfill in North Dallas? Good luck with that.

Kadane is an idiot. I would assume someone would run against him.

You missed Carraway and his 'minority arts' comment.

We are screwed.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway wonders -- just a thought here -- "is there a possibility of selling the landfill?" Actually, she says, "that's one of the most valuable assets you have," because it's already permitted.

He says, also, minority arts are a priority for him. "I look at it as, arts is arts." And with that, we're done with the budget. I'm gonna go track down Carolyn Davis for more on this store downstairs.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

One last update -- couldn't track down anything more about those plans for the store downstairs. But I think it might be a Starbucks.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Natinsky, real quick, to have the last say: "We need to be worried, but I don't think we need to get hysterical right now about what's going to happen." As Suhm said, he reminds, it's "significantly less" of a worst-case shortfall than we had at this point last year.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Sheffie Kadane is gonna drawl things to a close here, and he wants to know if Suhm is planning on cutting employees next year. Suhm says, yes, there'll be some cuts, but she can't be sure yet. 30,000-mile aerial view and all. What about salary cuts? Kadane wonders. "I'm not gonna tell you that either," Suhm says. "We're gonna keep our fingers crossed and hope it's really good news."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

That's fine, Atkins says, but he's looking out for business owners who're concerned about losing their property values.

Neumann isn't swayed. "I'm still reasonably confident that we are going to mitigate that," he says.

El Rey
El Rey

"Mitigate" means he thinks the City of Dallas can sue the USACoE to keep that data from seeing the light of day or until they redraw the maps to Dallas' liking. If I were a property owner anywhere along the Trinity (even some of the tall buildings downtown), I would be worried. ('cause come on, the city can't even sue the Dealey Plaza conspiracy hawkers right...)

Guest
Guest

He went from "very confident" to "reasonably confident" in the space of a single conversation.

By next week, he'll be walking around downtown carrying a "The Flood is Coming. The End is Near" sign.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Well, it's settled then. Tremendous. Attaboys all 'round.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

David Neumann wants to allay Atkins' concerns about the Trinity levees. "I'm still very confident that we will beat any proposed remapping that FEMA puts out there," he says. City staff's all over the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure we're all sitting pretty before a new map comes out. "I see intensity with which we're pressing... in order to not feel that negative effect."

Marc
Marc

The problem with our city is that they expect the USACE to respond favorably to their concerns about the new FEMA rules, potential property devaluation, mandatory federal flood insurance, a drop in property taxes and the right to connect our "Bridge to Nowhere", whereas the USACE is much more concerned with levee integrity and preventing downtown Dallas from becoming the Texas equivalent of New Orleans' 9th Ward.

The USACE has a professional obligation to make sure the levees are safe regardless of how convenient or inconvenient it is for a city that began construction projects in a haphazard way before having the technical details evaluated and analyzed to make certain that things were being done in a safe and prudent way.

We elected those clowns to lead us, and now they don't appear to be so funny. We are already facing a projected budget shortfall of $41-96 Million, the state is about to slash money to cities, schools and everything else putting us further in debt, and now we are facing the problems of a failing levee system and potential financial disasters across the board. Meanwhile, our city leadership has given us the Trinity Toll Road Project with a huge tax bill, a Convention Center Hotel project with a huge tax bill, an expensive recreation project (The Trinity River Corridor Project) in an already heavily-polluted river which they now plan to further contaminate with frac fluids, and other "sustainable development" projects that we did not really need and certainly could not afford.

THIS is what we get when conservatives run things! But, if you ask them then they will tell you that it is liberals who spend us into oblivion. To be fair, it is both. In our case, we elected people in a popularity contest rather than selecting leadership based upon credentials, track records, comprehension of economics and a willingness to put the best interest of the city before their own personal aspirations.

We get the government that we deserve because WE elect it!

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Davis wants more details from Suhm on what the city's going to do to raise more money. "Looking at privatization," Suhm suggests, or only hiring back half the police force's attrition. She's not sure, she says, it's all still very high-level and abstract.

"What about opening a store downstairs?" Davis asks, but Suhm assures her that won't make a difference in the budget. If you've been listening, remember the shortfall's projected up to $96 million. Nobody wants to know what Davis expects them to sell downstairs, but this could be key.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Please, I beg you, ask her.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

She just walked out of the meeting, but if she comes back, I'll get to the bottom of this. And find out if she needs a business partner.

Gabe
Gabe

Sounds like there's an opportunity to sell magazines and other reading material to the esteemed members of the esteemed press.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Davis chimes in as well. "I will not be a part of a dumping ground," she says, because she doesn't want the city to turn into a dumping ground.

Next, Davis wants to know if the city will be bringing back a kitchen -- and Suhm knows what she's referring to, but I don't. Anyway, it prompted the following exchange:

Suhm: It'll be like a Starbucks, nothing's going to be cooked on-site.Davis: Is Starbucks going to be involved?Suhm: No, it'll be like a Starbucks.[beat]Davis: Can we get Starbucks?Suhm: We submitted a request for bids, and they weren't interested.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

It's not the City Council, it's the Marx Brothers.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Vonciel Jones Hill is up next, and by the strength with which she's pronouncing her "T's," she's pissed. She wants to know if the "flow control" mentioned in the slideshow is actually "a euphemism for all of the waste collected in the City of Dallas, to go to the McCommas Landfill." Yes, she's told, it is.

Hill says she is "adamantly opposed." "I do not wish all of the garbage picked up in the city of Dallas to have to go south."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway is still talking. He says he knows he's harping on Fair Park, but really, look at the missed opportunities there, and then at Jerry Jones. "Things are not just falling into Jerry Jones' lap. They are go-getters." We need to find, he says, "something we can sell we haven't already. We just have to have the initiative to do it."

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Caraway jumps in next and, boy, does he sound like a man on a campaign trail. "I want to make one promise: I will not be raising taxes for this budget," he says.

bob
bob

Bill Zeeble reads Parade??? Say it aint so!

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

You didn't hear it from me. But it was one of the last things left on the press table, and I got stuck with that same old copy of 'Highlights' with the hidden pictures already circled in.

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

"This is 30 miles in the air, and the rubber hadn't met the road yet," Atkins says -- but still, he wants to know Suhm isn't afraid of reshuffling city staff to make sure everyone's "running a tight ship," and that all the directors have the right education for their jobs to help balance the budget just right.

He's not talking about telling Suhm how to do her job, he says, but, "We also gotta say, 'Hey Mary, I got an idea.'"

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Leppert says he knows there've been headlines about a big deficits facing the city. "The reality is that's not the case," he says, because we all know the city's got to have a balances budget in the end.

Tennell Atkins is worried about what'll happen if FEMA's new flood risk map drives property values down along the Trinity -- because then the city's going to be getting a lot less in property taxes. "I don't want to be sitting here, doing a budget in August and say, hey, we're $10-$20 million short along the Trinity."

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Wow. Leppert pulled that one straight from Rick Perry's Big Book of Budget Talking Points.

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