DALLAS — The Dallas Budget Committee approved the city’s 2017-18 budget, but not without a debate over the $30,000 added to pay for a recreation coordinator.
In a previous meeting, the committee approved moving $30,000 from contingency funds to pay for the position, and added $10,000 in revenue and a matching amount in expenditures as a result of creating the position.
Councilor and budget committee member Jackie Lawson pointed out the position was slated to bring in $25,000 in revenue.
Dallas 2017-18 budget
How much? $41 million overall; $12.2 million general fund.
What positions does it add? Economic development director, fire department administrative assistant, two seasonal firefighters, three paramedics, part-time recreation coordinator, and moving a part-time finance and court clerk to full-time.
What major projects will it pay for? Senior Center (by federal grant); water reclaiming project (recycling treated waste water for other uses, such as watering grass in parks); continue installing automatic water meters; adding a second “aquifer storage and recovery” well; and beginning work on improvements to Godsey Road.
She asked what programs would not be offered in 2017-18 to explain the discrepancy.
“If we had $25,000 last year, that’s a $15,000 disparity,” she said. “We have to know what kind of programs we are not going to be offering.”
City Manager Ron Foggin said the figure was a starting point and a lot of that would depend on what the person hired decides to pursue.
“We could have put $25,000 (in revenue) and $25,000 (in expenses), but realistically we wanted to get it started with $10,000 and go from there,” Foggin said. “If we find there is a lot of activity and it’s costing more, that budget number can be adjusted.”
Lawson said she isn’t comfortable with a position at 25 hours per week for $30,000.
“I don’t see justification for a position at a rate that’s almost double what we pay our EMTs,” she said. “I would be much more inclined that we have that $20,000 in cost at about a 15-hour week, 16-hour week position, until they prove that they would be able to come up with that many more ideas that would justify more revenue, more expenditures.”
Part-time EMT’s working for the city will be paid $10.25 per hour in 2017-18.
She proposed a motion to amend the budget to reduce the funding for the rec position to $20,000.
Councilor and budget committee member Micky Garus said the city should focus on other priorities – such as public safety and infrastructure.
He also pointed out that a volunteer group has begun to pick up organizing recreational activities in Dallas.
Those who supported adding the position said it provided opportunity to expand recreation opportunities for citizens and helped organizations and volunteer groups create more programs.
“My understanding is that the rec coordinator position is not going to take away from anyone who’s volunteering. Those groups are going to do their best … and we need to support them,” said Jennie Rummell, the councilor and budget committee member who proposed the position be added to the budget at the first budget meeting.
She said the group Garus referred to is new and will only serve adults, and that the rec position could help it grow and serve as a liaison between the city and the county and school district.
The motion to decrease funding failed, with Lawson, Garus and Councilor and committee member Terry Crawford voting in favor of the motion.
Following that vote, Crawford asked for more information regarding how part-time EMT pay is determined.
“How are those salaries established?” he asked. “Are they established in relation to what other cities pay for those positions? Is there any way to come up with some contingency money to equalize those things?”
Foggin said each department is asked for a budget recommendation for personnel needs, which include raises, promotions and moving part-time positions to full-time.
Chief Fred Hertel, the Dallas Fire & EMS administrator didn’t ask for more money for EMTs, he said. Hertel, who was in the room, nodded in agreement.
“I will tell you that it is somewhat problematic for us, in the way that we are structured,” Foggin said. “We have a straight-up EMS department. Our people are not cross-trained. EMTs, paramedics don’t run fire service. That makes it extremely difficult for us to compare to a lot of other organizations.”
The budget, with the recreation coordinator included, passed 16-2 with Garus and Lawson voting no.
In other business, the committee approved the Dallas Urban Renewal District budget.