Dallas leaders still working to make up for the millions lost due to COVID-19 restrictions

Will the first round of Dallas city employee furloughs be enough to stabilize the city's budget?

It's a tough question with nearly 500 jobs on the line, as the city is trying to close a gap of $25 million for this year alone.

But as the city moves into next fiscal year starting in October, city officials are looking a much larger budget shortfall.

Kim Tolbert, the chief of staff for the city manager’s office, updated council members Thursday on the city’s Workplace Stabilization Plan.

Nearly 500 employees, primarily from park and recreation, libraries, and cultural facilities, are now on extended furlough through July 31.

They’ll still have medical coverage and will be eligible for government assistance.

The city is hoping this will save $4 million.

“As you know, there’s a lot of uncertainty. And I wish we could answer every single question around what we think we will do and what the future holds. We are trying to make the best decisions with the information that we have,” Tolbert said.

Council members know options are limited as this fiscal year draws to a close at the end of September.

“Between now and then, so we are only looking at cuts, right?” Councilwoman Care Mendelsohn asked.

“As we look toward Phase 2 of the Workforce Stabilization Plan, Councilwoman Mendelsohn, we know that there will be more difficult decision that we’ll have to make,” Tolbert responded.

City leaders said those difficult decisions for the next phase could include intermittent furlough days, extended furloughs, or even a reduction in force.

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The budget gap heading into the next fiscal year, starting October 1, is between $73 million and $134 million.

“I know that there are efforts underway now to scrub every single budget, look at every single department to ensure that we can minimize the impact directly to our employees,” Tolbert said.

To that end, the city’s chief financial officer said she’s working to identify all coronavirus-related expenses that the city can cover with federal funding.

The goal is to have the final number to the city council by June 17.

She said the last resort is to dip into the city’s reserve.

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