DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As the City of Dallas looks for ways to cut its budget during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Monday he wants the city to look at defunding the bureaucracy.
The Mayor said, “We have a lot of bloat and fat at City Hall that could be trimmed. The size of the city hall bureaucracy has without a doubt grown over the years. It needs to be stopped. It needs to be put in check and it needs to actually get smaller.”
Shrinking sales tax revenues from the Covid-19-related shutdowns have wreaked havoc on the economy and created budget shortfalls.
The city has furloughed nearly 500 employees through the end of July.
City records show the furloughs and a hiring freeze have helped save the city $39.3 million at a time when the latest forecast shows city revenues will be $49.6 million below budget.
That’s a shortfall of $10.3 million for the rest of this fiscal year ending September 30th.
The projected budget shortfall for the 2020-21 year is between $61 million to $101 million.
Mayor Johnson said the city bureaucracy needs to share in the pain. “Sharing in the pain our residents are feeling rather than adding to it by talking about cutting their police, and talking about cutting their city services, and talking about raising their taxes.”
City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who runs the city, makes more than $400,000 a year, a salary and contract approved by council members.
The Mayor makes $80,000, a salary set by the residents in the city charter.
Council members make $60,000.
In a letter to Broadnax Friday, the Mayor said, “A 20 percent cut in your own salary and those of your highest-paid subordinates alone would equate to savings of about $700,000.”
He said that amount is more than double what the city spends on teen pregnancy prevention programs and the equivalent of salaries for more than eleven rookie firefighter-paramedics.
Records show the city has more than 300 executive positions and the Mayor said he also wants the City Auditor, City
Attorney’s Office, Park and Recreation Department, and City Secretary to look at their budgets for potential salary cuts for top executives.
Council member Paula Blackmon said she thinks salaries should always be looked at. “I think we’re going into a time where everything’s on the table.”
When asked if it’s possible council members could force the City Manager to cut his salary and the salaries of other top city executives by passing a resolution, Blackmon said, “I guess anything is possible. But the question is what does that do to the relationship with the Council and the City Manager – having to put that on an agenda item for discussion? It would be nice to figure out the cuts elsewhere.”
Council member Omar Narvaez said he appreciates all ideas brought to the table, but that “we don’t have to attack people’s wages first.”
He said he is willing to look at the bloat in the budget, but that he wants to see some of the recommendations by Broadnax.
Mayor Johnson said, “We need to tighten our belts at City Hall and as long as I’m around, I’m going to continue to say that.
No matter who likes it. It’s just the truth.”
The Mayor said he hasn’t heard back from Broadnax.
A spokeswoman for the City Manager said he was unavailable for an interview Monday, but that he is looking forward to Wednesday’s budget workshop to hear from council members about their priorities.
In his letter, the Mayor also said the city could save $200,000 by eliminating state lobbying contracts during the next legislative session beginning in January.
He suggested council members and existing city staff could advocate for the city during the session at the State Capitol.
Council member Blackmon disagreed saying lobbyists still have merit.
The Mayor also questioned management services which have grown in the city budget from $8.9 million in fiscal year 2015 to $30.2 million in fiscal year 2019.
Council member Blackmon agreed saying she questioned these expenses during the budget process last year. “There are a few offices that we should evaluate. Do they bring value to the organization?”
She also agreed with the Mayor’s recommendation for the city to implement the findings of its Task Force On Safe Communities.
They included improving lighted in high-crime areas.
Blackmon said, “We have areas in Dallas that do not have street-lighting, adequate lighting in neighborhoods. Those create dark areas where criminal activities happen that put our officers in harms way. We need to light them. We need to bring some light into some areas.”
READ THE LETTER HERE: