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Dallas County passes $1.8 billion budget, adopts slightly lower property tax rate

Dallas County Commissioners sit at their seats in the county courtroom, facing staff and a podium. Behind them are three large screens containing a budget presentation.
Bret Jaspers
Dallas County commissioners have approved a $1.8 billion budget. The biggest chunk of it will pay for salaries and benefits for county employees.

Dallas County Commissioners approved a budget of about $1.8 billion for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 — an increase of over $266 million from the previous fiscal year.

The vote was 3 to 2. Commissioners Theresa Daniel, Elba Garcia, and John Wiley Price voted for the budget and a new property tax rate for the county. Commissioner J. J. Koch and County Judge Clay Jenkins voted against both.

The largest chunk of the budget will go to salaries and benefits for county employees. The budget office projects it will spend about $446 million on that next fiscal year.

The county is giving 3% cost of living increases to eligible employees starting in January. In an effort to curb turnover at the county jail, deputy service officers in specific job grades will get a 4% increase.

The county adopted a tax rate of $0.217946 cents per $100 of assessed value. That is one cent lower than last fiscal year, but the highest of the options presented by budget staff.

Property taxes that go to county government make up only a portion of an owner’s overall bill. Parkland Health, city governments, and school districts also levy property taxes.

At Friday’s meeting, Koch repeated concerns he expressed last month — that there are federal and escrow funds that should be utilized now in order to further reduce the tax rate.

“There’s more than five or six places where we’ve padded places significantly that didn’t need to be there that represent about $20 million,” he said.

Garcia, for her part, said using words like “pad” are confusing.

“We’re not padding, we’re budgeting,” she said in response to Koch. “When you budget, you take into consideration that things are going to be more expensive. You take into consideration that things might change.”

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.