News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arts, Parks And Libraries Bear The Brunt Of 472 Furloughs As City Of Dallas Reacts To Pandemic

Dallas City Hall
Tony Gutierrez
Associated Press
Word came down from Dallas City Hall on Friday that 472 city workers would be furloughed. The vast majority are from the city's parks, libraries and cultural departments.

The city of Dallas will furlough 472 workers starting next week because of a pandemic-spurred budget crunch — and by far the biggest impact will be on the parks, libraries and cultural departments. The Office of Arts and Culture alone will lose more than half its 60 employees.

Overall, the move affects less than 4% of the city's 13,000 workers — but more than a quarter of the 900 parks and recreation staffers will be furloughed, as will nearly half of the 400 library workers.

The furloughs of employees deemed "non-essential" were announced Friday. They will take effect Wednesday and last at least through the end of July. 

In a memo, City Manager T.C. Broadnax wrote that the move comes as the city faces a $25 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30. That could rise to as much as $134 million in the next fiscal year. The big reason: Sales tax revenues are plummeting.

"A furlough is a very difficult decision to make," said Catherine Cuellar, former executive director of the Dallas Arts District and now a city spokesperson. She added, "The city was focused on protecting core services, essential civilian employees both in the field and working from home."

Cuellar said the furloughs will save the city $4 million.

Vicki Meek, a former city employee who now sits on the Arts and Culture Advisory Commission, says artists often revive down economies and residents – through their performances. Eventually, she says that might happen again, but doesn’t know when:

“I’ve lived through two furloughs, but this is looking like the worst we’ve ever had to endure. This is something that’s affected every single method of getting money that we have, and I just don’t feel like it’s going to be an easy return."

These workers will be eligible for unemployment benefits through federal COVID-19 relief funding for the length of their furloughs. Those who signed up for health insurance will have coverage extended through July.

Broadnax also wrote that the city would unveil a "Return To Work" plan next week.

Read More: Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax's Memo Announcing The Furloughs

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.