A.C. Gonzalez is six months into his job as Dallas' city manager, and Tuesday, he’ll present his first official budget to the city council. It includes a $5 million cut in police funding -- meaning 35 fewer officers -- and more money for libraries and animal services. Gonzalez sat down with KERA a day before his big reveal.
When Gonzalez started the process, he thought he’d have $30 million less than last year, but surging property tax revenues left him with $55 million more. Still, he says, the budget has been a challenge.
Interview Highlights: A.C. Gonzalez on...
...Whether the police cutback is, as one cop complained, "a slap in the face:" "Absolutely not... As a whole, the police department is still going to be growing in a very solid way. Most of that has to do with police salaries, which obviously is not a slap in the face for all those officers that will be getting not only a 4 percent cost-of-living [raise], but a 5 percent, for those who are eligible, step increase."
...Library budget boosts of $3 million this year and another $3 million next year: "Over the next two years, we will have [12 branches and] the central library open seven days a week."
...$700,000 more to deal with abandoned dogs and cats: "It does make a dent. It will probably not solve it. But what we're trying also to do is encourage, by this investment, the community to step up even more than they already have."
...Challenges with streets, buildings, traffic signals: "There are enormous needs with regards to infrastructure that this budget is not immediately addressing. It is setting the stage for us to be doing more in the future in terms of bond investment."
...Concern that a city at the top of the economic cycle can't fund what it should be funding: "Yes, I do worry.... As it stands right now, if we don't have ways of actually creating more wealth in the community, what we really start going down the road of is subtracting. Once you get into the path of subtracting on services, subtracting on investment into our economic development, you get into a death spiral, which something that we obviously want to avoid."