Dallas, like so many cities, is in crisis over a money shortfall from a drop in tax revenue. At first glance this seems reasonable, given the economic situation the entire country is in. But, the reality is quite different.
Here are the facts:
City’s budget for 2008-2009 $ 2.7B
City’s budget proposal for 2009-2010 $ 2.72B
Budget estimated Shortfall $190M
Jobs cut as a result 900+
If you want to see a pdf by the city here it is. The first thing you notice is that the city’s budget still went up by 20M this year. Which seems odd considering the 900+ layoffs. So the city manager and city council approved a budget increase last year, in what was obvious to everyone else, a major recession. I was aware that we were heading into a recession in 2007. So how is it that city hall did not even think to be conservative in its figures in 2008 when planning for 2009? More interestingly is to look at the city’s budget over time. Looking back at the previous few years:
Year Budget Increase over previous year 2002-2003 1.72B na 2003-2004 1.92B 10% 2004-2005 2.05B 6% 2005-2006 2.22B 8% 2006-2007 2.34B 5% 2007-2008 2.65B 12% 2008-2009 2.7B 2% Total Difference $980M 64% Total Increase in 7 years
So the city has increased its’ budget $1B in 7 years, which is a 64% increase. Does that number seem really high to anyone else? But, lets take a look at the population estimates for Dallas. In 2002 the city had a population of 1.19M. The Census Bureau estimates the city had a population of 1.279M in 2008. Now that number really jumps out at you. The city’s population has only increased by roughly a 89K people in the same time frame, which is only a 7% increase. So our city budget went up 64% over the same time period that our population increased 7%. That in my book is out of control spending. That should indicate that the city’s taxes are too high to begin with. So using the Census Bureau’s data I thought I would look at a couple of cities of similar size to Dallas. San Antonio is slightly larger than Dallas at 1.3M and has a 2010 budget of 885M, that is a whopping $1.8B less than our budget. San Diego, which has essentially the same population as Dallas, ( but a much higher cost of living) has a 2010 budget of $3.01B. Houston with a population of 2.2M, quite a bit larger than Dallas, only has a budget of $2.3B, $400M less than Dallas.
So our city is laying off people and screaming about a drop in tax revenue, when the reality is it has been over taxing its citizens and spending like mad. Having lived in Houston for 4 years, I can’t say Dallas has any real advantage over that city’s level of service. So why is the discrepancy so large? What is our city wasting our money on? The really profound thing to me is I have noticed no changes with an extra billion in “services” the city is spending. There are still potholes everywhere, crime is out of control and response times suck. My car had both windows smashed out by thieves the other day and the police no longer even come out to take a look at the crime. All these extra cops on the streets and no service. It is a joke and so is the city council.