Dallas County officials vote to propose tax increase

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by KEVIN KRAUSE

The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 31, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 1 at 12:11 AM

DALLAS - Dallas County commissioners formally signaled this morning that they would approve a tax increase in about three weeks while also keeping employee salaries unchanged for the coming 2011 fiscal year.

The commissioners voted to propose a 1.5-cent tax rate increase for the purposes of balancing the 2011 budget. The budget is still $1 million short due to changing revenue projections. To close that, the county budget director said he would propose a transfer of transportation dollars into the general fund.

Commissioners also voted to set next year’s elected-official salaries, which will see no change from this year except they will not include cell phone allowances. As a result, county employee salaries will be frozen for a third straight year, officials said.

If the Commissioners Court had not signaled its intent to raise taxes, pay cuts would likely have been needed to close a large budget gap.

Commissioners will vote to approve the budget and tax rate on Sept. 21.

County Judge Jim Foster said last week that he had changed his mind and would support a tax rate increase. The Democrat would be the swing vote in favor of a tax hike when the Commissioners Court approves the budget in about three weeks.

In an e-mail sent Monday to all county employees, Commissioner John Wiley Price cautioned that nothing is final until the budget is approved Sept. 21.

“While the judge's action was an important step in our budget-making process, we are still not complete with this enormous task, and I must caution everyone that there is still much work to be done and that I fear some previously agreed-upon positions may suddenly change,” Price said.

Price, a Democrat, and Commissioner Mike Cantrell, a Republican, have said they also favor the tax hike. Republican Commissioners Maurine Dickey and Kenneth Mayfield have said they will vote to keep the current tax rate of 22.81 cents per $100 of property value for next year.

Price said some budget items that were previously earmarked for elimination have become the subject of intense negotiations since Foster announced last week that he was changing his vote. He said anything can change between now and Sept. 21 and that employees and county residents should not assume anything about the budget until votes are cast.

“It's not over until it's over!” Price said in his e-mail to county employees.

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