DALLAS — Tuesday marked the first time members of the Dallas City Council could ask questions about a proposed $3.8 billion budget that includes an additional $40 million to retain police officers.
To help pay for it, the budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year presented by City Manager T.C. Broadnax also calls for the first increase of the tax rate in Dallas since 2011.
The current tax rate sits at 77.67 cents per $100 of home valuation. The budget proposed would raise it to 78 cents.
For a home valued at $303,000, which is now the average in Dallas, the tax bill due to the city would increase by $172, however only $8 of that amount would be attributed to the rate increase.
Due to increase in home valuations in Dallas County, even if the rate stays the same for the upcoming year, it would still result in a $164-higher tax bill.
Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates said she will support keeping the tax rate unchanged. Gates represents District 13, which includes northwest Dallas, Preston Hollow and Vickery Meadow.
"I think that would be an argument that we start with the current rate and we know we might have to cut a little bit,” Gates said.
Council members Adam McGough, of Lake Highlands, and Lee Kleinman, of North Dallas, also said they would not support increasing the tax rate.
Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune, who oversees public safety, says the additional $40 million will help with retention for a department that has seen hundreds of officers retire or leave for higher paying suburban departments in recent years.
Fortune said he is also working to change the pay structure for experienced officers from a predetermined step increase over a set number of years. Instead, wages would be determined by a market-based approach that is responsive to what the 17 cities surrounding Dallas are paying at any given moment.
Council member Cara Mendelsohn, of Far North Dallas, says the increase in funding for police from 57.2% to 57.7% of the budget doesn't reflect the investment she says many council members and the public have been asking for.
"When you’ve heard this so clearly in the community — that’s really not the leap that I was hoping,” Mendelsohn said.
Like Mendelsohn, council members Paula Blackmon and David Blewett also said they did not support the proposed tax increase. Blackmon represents East Dallas and White Rock Lake and Blewett's district includes downtown, Uptown, Oak Lawn and East Dallas.
Council members will spend much of the next two weeks holding community town halls to get citizen feedback on the proposals.
A schedule of those town halls can be found here.
Two public hearings are also set for Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 to receive input on the proposed tax rate and budget proposal.