Although city officials say they expect property values to rise five percent for next year’s budget, it won’t fix much. That was the news on Friday, when the city got word from the Dallas Central Appraisal District about what numbers it can plug in when it figures revenue for the 2008-09 spending plan.
The five percent increase doesn’t look like it will do much more than prevent the big cuts similar to those we had at the beginning of the decade. However, the "small" cuts — fewer road repairs, library closings, less code enforcement — that the city manager forecast don’t sound like much fun, either. And it looks like the property value boost won’t be enough to pay for those 200 cops that Mayor Park Cities promised we’d get without a tax increase. Just in time, of course, for the slowing economy related hike in crime.
Right now, thanks to slumping sales tax receipts, we’re $50 million short for this year. That means next year’s budget has to cover that deficit, plus take into account sales tax numbers that will probably be flat to lower over the next 18 months. There will be no extra cash next year.
What does that mean for us? First and foremost, we need accountability from our elected representatives at City Hall. We need to call and send emails and ask them what they’re going to do about the projected deficits. Do they want to raise taxes to make up the difference? If not, what services will they cut? What will we do about the 200 cops? How did this shortfall happen, and what will be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
What we don’t want is more posturing: "This is a serious problem, and we’re going to think long and hard about it." "We have tough choices to make." Trust us."
We did trust them, and look at the mess we’re in.