DALLAS - For the first time, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price has come out publicly saying he would support a tax hike to take care of the county's budget shortfall.

Back in June, Price made headlines when he talked about slashing employees' salaries. It was a move that surprised his fellow commissioners, and it was first time the sensitive topic had been discussed to try to make up for the county's $58-million budget gap.

We are going to have to talk about a three percent across the board pay cut, he said. ... At least put it out there. If you can find it somewhere else, then hey, fine.

But, in an e-mail to county employees this week, the commissioner did an about face, saying he no longer was considering a three percent salary decrease. Instead, he said he supported raising the property tax rate by 1.5 cents to a rate of 24.31 cents to make up the difference.

Dallas County has the second lowest tax rate in Texas even though it's been increased three times since 2003. Budget officials have warned without a tax increase, services would have to be cut.

In his e-mail, Price said he changed his mind because the county was able make up a significant amount of its debt by cutting back over the past few months. Also, property values, he said, did not decrease as dramatically as originally feared.

But, for taxpayers, it may end up a wash. While residents' property may be worth less, they may soon be paying more for it.


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