County Judge Clay Jenkins did not rule out layoffs after county auditors miscalculated tax revenues by $13-million.
“I see the possibility that we need to right size some departments. We need to look at each one of those. What I’ve asked is for each department head and elected official to come forward with their ideas rather than having it come from on high,” said Jenkins on WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics this morning.
“In the truancy courts, I’ve laid off two judges out of the five and the staff that’s underneath them goes away. That’s somewhat of a savings because we saw a decrease in truancy court after reform that [Dallas ISD Superintendent] Michael Hinojosa and I led,” added Jenkins.
The county judge said he will try again this year to get commissioners to agree to reduce the effective tax rate which keep property taxes from rising as home values have in the last year. Jenkins, a Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to do that last year. Neither the City of Dallas nor Dallas ISD followed his lead. Both the city and the school district raised taxes.
The judge said he will try again to get the city of Dallas and Dallas ISD to follow his lead this year. School taxes make up more than half of all property taxes.
Sixty percent of Dallas’ population are renters, Jenkins said. Rents on two bedroom apartments have increased another $100 this year to an average of $1,200, he continued.
“Families just can’t afford these increases and taxes going up leads property owners to raise rents,” said Jenkins.
The Republican replacement for Obamacare is projected to leave public hospitals like Dallas County’s Parkland Memorial Hospital with more patients who can’t pay and less reimbursement from Medicaid. Jenkins said if that bill becomes law then local taxpayers will pay more.
“It’s going to mean a huge burden to you and likely increases in your costs. This is a tax cut masquerading as a healthcare bill and it’s not even a tax cut for most of us. It’s a tax cut for millionaires. In Congressman Pete Sessions district alone 65,000 people will lose their health coverage. That’s just on the insurance side. Let’s look at the Medicaid side. That’s where Parkland [Memorial Hospital] really gets hammered because 98% of our people are uninsured,” explained Jenkins. “It’s arguable that Dallas County gets ripped worse than any other place in the country because of this bill.”
Finally, Jenkins, the county’s top elected official, was asked about the ongoing criminal investigation into voter fraud. In a series of WFAA's reports over the last couple months, dead people have applied to vote, people received mail-in ballots who never requested them, and others have shown up to the polls to discover someone else had already voted in their name. Last week, the Texas Attorney General’s Office joined the criminal investigation.
Jenkins was asked whether it’s time for new leadership in the elections office.
“What I’m told by our Republican D.A. [Faith Johnson] is that there’s no evidence there was any collusion inside our election department. It’s not possible for any county department to control what the 2.6-million people do out there. Here’s the important thing about that. We need to fix that voter fraud, we need to hold those people accountable, if there was anybody inside that department that was involved in that, they need to be held accountable, but the key thing here is we can’t let this suppress people’s votes,” Jenkins told WFAA.
After the program, the county judge clarified to answer specifically about the elections administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole: “Our elections administrator and staff are dedicated to protecting the vote and are working with the D.A. on this investigation.”