Dallas City Council approves almost $5 billion budget, plus new property tax rate
The Dallas City Council has voted to approve a $4.8 billion dollar budget. That’s after one marathon meeting earlier this month and a contentious debate during Wednesday’s session.
The budget was approved by a 10-5 vote. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, District 12 Council Member Cara Mendelsohn, District 14 Council Member Paul Ridley, District 13 Council Member Gay Donnell Willis and District 10 Council Member Kathy Stewart all voted against the amended budget.
The rest of the council voted in favor.
Only five amendments were discussed before council members approved the budget. Two failed, one was pulled by a council member and only one passed.
The passed amendment was put forward by District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua and will reallocate some funds from the Public Works department to be used for multiple other programs. Those include funding for after-hours veterinarian care for Dallas Animal Services, more funding for demolitions and money for the city’s Human Resources department.
Along with the budget, council members voted to approve a property tax rate at $0.7357 per $100 valuation.
The discussion centered on two main themes: reducing the overall budget to lower tax rates and continuing essential services that officials say are crucial to Dallas residents.
“Equity is uncomfortable,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said. “We’re now paying for equity because of lack of investment over the years.”
Arnold says some of the proposed amendments don’t align with the racial equity pledge that at least 13 council members adopted in late 2022.
“What I would simply say, council members, we have an obligation here today to support the individuals who are here working for us, delivering services,” Arnold said. “Stand up, stand strong. Be able to deliver…the truth about what happens when we cut services.”
Arnold says the communities who have been historically underserved, will continue to be underserved if city services are continually cut.
Mendelsohn was one of the council members who lobbied for lower tax rates. That includes submitting a memo that warned against what some officials have called a “financial cliff” in the city’s future.
“We had an opportunity for course correction, but we did not take it,” Mendelsohn said. “This budget will obviously pass today, I will not be supporting it.”
Mendelsohn, along with Mayor Johnson, both urged residents around the city to lobby their council members for lower tax rates. The push has been framed as a “coordinated campaign” that does not necessarily reflect what residents really want.
“The narrative that is opposing to pass and approve this particular budget, had a coordinated campaign [that] asked people to tell us to go a different direction,” Bazaldua said. “In fact they were being kind of pushed to tell us to go a different direction.”
Officials say the process to approve the budget is always difficult. District 9 Council Member Paula Blackmon says everyone comes to the table with an area of city finances that they’re not willing to cut.
“I’ve been around this place for a while and there’s always a sacred cow,” Blackmon said. “Everybody’s got one. The question is are we willing to take it to the alter.”
With the budget passed and a tax rate adopted, the council will have to figure out what to use their bond capacity on and how they will grapple with a years-long city pension system deficit.
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