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7 Things To Know About The Dallas City Budget

Protesters gathered outside Dallas City Hall in June.
Bret Jaspers
/
KERA News
Protesters gathered outside Dallas City Hall in June.

City Council is hammering out a spending plan as we speak. Here's what's happening.

1. After the George Floyd protests, it’s getting a lot of attention.

This budget would kick in on October 1st and be the first full budget since activists around the country started calling for city and state governments to shift money away from police departments in favor of more social services. The racial justice group Our City Our Future is demanding a cut of $200 million from the police budget, out of a total $516 million. Likewise, the Grassroots Law Project is holding virtual meetings with city management and council members.

2. Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax proposes a budget plan, but the City Council amends and approves it.

Broadnax released his spending plan in early August. He held public hearings and the Council held its first budget briefing last week, where council members offered amendments. A handful were approved.

3. The city manager has proposed alternatives to policing, but no cut to police funding.

Broadnax isn’t proposing to cut the police budget overall but he included new spending on some alternatives to police: mental health response teams that contain police officers, mental health care access, and a mobile crisis unit, which would help cops get people food, housing, or help with a domestic violence situation. Those ideas cost $1 to $2 million dollars each. Broadnax is also proposing $650,000 for a recovery center where the city will divert public intoxication cases.

4. Several council members want money to move sworn officers out of desk jobs and onto patrol.

Sworn officers are more expensive employees than civilians, and hundreds of sworn officers are working jobs that a less-expensive civilian could do. An analysis last year from the consulting firm KPMG found the Dallas Police Department had a lower percentage of civilian employees than departments in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth. The firm suggested using more civilians as a way to have sworn police officers do more crime fighting.

Several councilmembers have proposed an amendment to cut $7 million from the police overtime budget out of the $24 million Broadnax budgeted. About $1.6 million of that would pay for 21 civilian employees that could do work that uniformed cops are now doing.

“We’re going to continue to perpetuate a vicious cycle that is almost going to be impossible to break unless we actually make a bold decision,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, whose district includes Fair Park and parts of East Dallas. He was one of the sponsors of the amendment, which passed 11-3.

5. Others don’t want to cut police overtime.

Police chief Reneé Hall, who is resigning effective Nov. 10, said moving 21 cops out of desk jobs wouldn’t make up for the cut to overtime. She said the department needs overtime because it can’t predict when there will be a killing or a protest.

Councilmember Jennifer Gates, who represents parts of northern Dallas including Preston Hollow, thought the council was on a path to cutting overtime now and then simply adding it back later in the year when it’s needed. She didn’t want that.

“You can’t ... have your cake and eat it too, and say, ‘let’s take the money, and then if we need it, [we'll] supplant it back,’” she said last week. “I feel like that’s kind of what we’re doing here.”

At the budget briefing, Councilmember Paula Blackmon, who represents the area around White Rock Lake and co-sponsored the overtime cut, asked about overtime spending when the number of officers was at a recent peak.

The department had over 3,600 officers in 2010, compared to under 3,000 today. Reich said overtime cost $12.4 million in fiscal year 2010 and $16.5 million the year before.

“That’s an interesting data point,” Blackmon said of those numbers compared to the proposed overtime budget of $24 million for next year. “When you have the personnel, it’s almost cut in half.”

6. The mayor would like to cut some city salaries.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson proposed cutting salaries for any city worker who earns over $60,000 annually and then applying the savings to either public safety, infrastructure, or a property tax cut. His idea received almost no support from other members of the Council, although he told the Dallas Morning News he won’t abandon the effort.

7. There is no proposed increase in the property tax rate.

Despite the pandemic, the city is actually expecting overall tax revenue for the general fund to increase because property values have gone up and new homes have been built. This money will make up for lower sales tax revenues as fewer people go out to restaurants or shop. Broadnax has proposed keeping the property tax rate at 77.66 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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