Margolin: Too Early for Budget Prognostications

Note: Quotes attributed to city planner David Cossum should have been attributed to assistant city attorney John Rogers. Rogers was the one speaking. Cossum was clicking through on the Powerpoint.

Councilwoman Ann Margolin hosted District 13 VIPs (mostly neighborhood association and crime watch presidents, plus yours truly) at the Gatti Town at Marsh and Forest Lanes last night to give a rundown and answer questions on the dual petition circulating to allow alcohol sales citywide.

More on that below, but first, the budget. Margolin couldn’t help but address the city’s estimated $130 million shortfall looming over next year’s balance sheet. Falling property values (and a corresponding fall in the city’s property tax receipts) and a drop in sales tax revenue has left the city with a “grim” budget outlook for the second year in a row. That will mean more belt tightening from a budget which, excluding public safety and code enforcement, was cut to the bone to close last year’s $190 million gap, but Margolin declined to speculate on where cuts might be made.

“It’s too early in the game. I’m not going to say what we’re going to do,” Margolin said.

But she made clear that nothing–not police, not fire, not code enforcement–is off the table.

Now, back to the booze. Not much new to report, but a quick recap: If at least 68,500 registered voters sign each of two petitions being circulated (which seems like it will happen by the time they are submitted to the city next week, Margolin said), voters will choose Nov. 2 whether to 1) allow beer and wine to be sold at grocery and convenience stores for off-premise consumption and 2) to do away with the ‘private club’ restriction that requires drinkers to be “members” of a restaurant to order alcohol. Cities, counties, and justice of the peace precincts can vote to be completely wet, dry, or somewhere in between, per the Texas Constitution. In the past, this has been determined by JP precinct, which goes a long way toward explaining the odd patchwork of wet, dry, and quasi-wet areas in Dallas.

David Cossum, the city’s assistant director of Sustainable Development and Construction Assistant city attorney John Rogers did most of the talking, getting into some of the more arcane details of Texas liquor law, which I won’t go too far into. He said the city is “looking into” the potential impact on the city’s sales tax revenue if the measures are approved.

One interesting side note, though: The citywide elections will not override previous JP elections if the historic JP precinct is completely within city limits. So if, hypothetically, a JP precinct bounded by Northwest Highway, Hillcrest Road, Walnut Hill Lane, and Preston Road had voted to be completely dry in 1892, the coming election wouldn’t make it wet.

Should be pretty easy to determine, right? Wrong. Rogers said the city is digging through county records to determine the boundaries of various justice of the peace precincts during previous wet/dry elections.

“I’m really, really hoping they figure it out by Nov. 2,” Cossum Rogers said.

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