The City budget will grow this year, but because property values were up and sales tax revenue increased, most residents won’t feel the pinch. The $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 1996-97 expands services in many important areas, such as street maintenance. Water rates remain stable, and the property tax rate is cut for the second year in a row.
Participants in the two District 14 Town Hall meetings held in August said the budget reflected their priorities, but that the City should devote more resources to such quality-of-life areas as libraries, parks, anti-litter programs and the arts.
Funding for human services, such as drug abuse treatment and prevention programs and infant immunization, were also supported. Several amendments to the City Manager’s recommended budget addressed those concerns.
An additional $250,000 was added for library book purchases, bringing the increase over last year’s budget to $400,000. The new library automation system, with enhanced computer capacity, will begin operation during this budget year.
The council added $330,000 to the Park Department budget to keep swimming pools open later in the summer and to address other pressing needs. New funds are in the budget to operate new recreation centers and to replace equipment.
Cultural funding was increased $200,000 in part to begin developing programs for a new Hispanic cultural center that may be located Downtown.
Street maintenance, which had been neglected during years of budget cutting, is finally on the mend. The City’s program to bring 75 percent of our streets up to satisfactory condition by the year 2015 will be accelerated to accomplish the goal by 2010. With new funding this year, hundreds more miles of streets will be resurfaced.
Reversing a pattern of continual cuts to human services, the City Council has agreed to add $175,000 to fight drug abuse and $25,000 to support infant immunization programs.
Curbside recycling funds will add East Dallas to the program next year; and automated garbage collection, which has proved popular in other parts of the City, will be expanded to our neighborhood. Garbage will be picked up under the new program where it is collected now, and in nearly all cases, in the alley. This expanded program will, however, cost an extra 78 cents per month per household.
Code enforcement, a program that needs a lot of work, will be given new resources, such as a dozen new inspectors and two City marshals to support warrant enforcement.
Public education programs and anti-litter projects also were funded.
Public safety programs are enhanced in this budget, as well. Of particular interest to East Dallas, which has a large Asian community, is the expansion of the Police Department’s community relations program to include an Asian outreach initiative. The Family and Domestic Violence Assistance Program is being expanded, and the City is replacing many squad cars. The budget also adds a new fire station and several more ambulances.
Finally, the 1995 bond program, which focused on infrastructure improvements – such as streets, new recreation centers and other capital programs – has been accelerated to be completed in three years rather than the originally planned four years.