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More cops, lower taxes and focus on equity highlighted in $4.5 billion Dallas budget proposal

The view of the Dallas Skyline from Dallas City Hall.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
The City of Dallas' budget is getting a boost to its general city budget fund this fiscal year. And a big chunk of that money is going to public safety initiatives like hiring and retaining police officers.

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax has unveiled a proposed $4.5 billion city budget. He wants to hire and retain more police officers, lower property taxes, and focus on equity and environmental justice.

The city manager’s recommendations bring Dallas’ budget season in full swing. Negotiations with council members begin later this month.

"We're trying to make impactful decisions that are not only sustainable, but I think speak to the values and the desires of many people in the community," Broadnax said.

This year's budget is larger than the current fiscal year’s budget by more than $150 million. That increase was largely driven by federal coronavirus relief money and increased property and sales tax revenues.

The general fund, which determines how citizen tax dollars will be spent on city services like public safety, parks, transportation and libraries, is 11% higher than the previous year, according to the city manager. And a big chunk of that money is going to public safety.

Broadnax said he also wants to fix delays with the city’s permitting office and find more ways to address homelessness.

Two tents at a homeless encampment in Dallas.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
The city manager's proposed budget plans to increase spending to address homelessness in the city, by increasing housing options, closing encampments and connecting people with services.

Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement he “commend[s] the city manager for focusing this year’s proposed budget on the issues that are most important to our residents.”

Johnson and Broadnax’s priorities for the budget appear to be more in alignment. They agreed to “moving forward together,” after the mayor and three other council members — frustrated with the city manager's performance — attempted to move up Broadnax’s evaluation and contemplated firing him in June.

"I am pleased that the Dallas City Council will now have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to these same priorities by investing in making our neighborhoods safer while also delivering the largest single-year tax-rate reduction in modern Dallas history,” Johnson said.

The city manager is expected to present his proposed budget plan to the council on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Then the city will host more than 30 town hall meetings from Aug. 11-25. You can find the full list here.

Here are some highlights:

Public Safety

  • Hire 250 police officers  
  • Initiate a $4 million retention bonus program 
  • Create a Night Detail Team to educate, monitor and inspect venues at entertainment districts 

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • Invest $157.3 million in the City’s infrastructure for streets, alleys, bridges, and sidewalks 

Economic Development

  • Hire more permit clerks for the city’s building permit process to improve the customers’ experience 
  • Initiate the nearly $2 billion Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Master Plan  

Environment and Sustainability

  • Protect the city's tree canopy and slow the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer 
  • Invest in environmental justice and remediation efforts 

Housing and Homeless Solutions

  • Protect people experiencing homelessness during inclement weather  
  • Launch a $2.5 million a Homeless Action Response Team 

Broadnax also announced expanding the hours of nine Dallas public library branches from 40 to 54 hours a week and implementing the city’s new Racial Equity Plan.
The Dallas City Council will discuss, make changes throughout the month, and take a vote to adopt the new budget by the end of September. The new budget takes effect October 1st.

Got a tip? Email Alejandra Martinez at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.