DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax presented a proposed 2020 budget that would boost pay for police officers and firefighters and increase the property tax rate slightly.
For years, first responders have pushed for salary increases and they’ve received strong backing from many council members and residents.
The city is close to finalizing a new three-year deal for police and fire aimed at attracting new recruits and keeping department veterans from leaving.
The city’s Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich said, “This is a public safety budget and making this investment in public safety gives us a sustainable stream in order to fund what we believe are the pay raises we need to make for both recruitment and retention of our officers and firefighters.”
The city has lost hundreds of officers during the past several years after they retired or went to other departments for better pay amid a pension crisis.
The pension system has been addressed.
Broadnax said he expects to end the city’s current fiscal year Sept. 30 with about 3,034 officers.
He said next year’s proposed budget would allow for an additional 50 officers to be hired.
To pay for this, the city manager is proposing a .33 cent property tax increase, up from 77.67 cents to 78.00 cents per $100 valuation.
The city said for the average homeowner with a property value of $303,000 it would mean an extra $8.01 in property taxes next year.
The prior City Council increased the over 65-property tax exemption from $90,000 to $100,000 which will give the average senior a $78 savings on their property tax bill.
The city’s proposed general fund budget starting Oct. 1, is $1.44 billion, up 5.63 percent or $70 million from the 2019 fiscal year.
This is the final year the city won’t have to comply with SB2, the state law that passed earlier this year that won’t allow cities to raise property tax revenues by more than 3.5 percent without an automatic resident election.
The law goes into effect Jan. 1.
Reich said a proposed 2021 budget complies with the state law.
The proposed budget would also provide firefighters with a second set of protective gear, replace body cameras for police officers and provide cameras for city marshals and animal services officers.
In addition, the city said the budget would improve the pavement condition of 710 lane miles of streets and alleys by using nearly $33 million in bonds and nearly $53 million in cash.
The proposal also would boost recreational programming for teenagers, expand internet access for residents by making mobile hot spots available at certain libraries.
Mayor Eric Johnson and some city council members have previously said they want to lower the property tax rate, not raise it.
Broadnax said it’s now up to the Mayor and Council Members to review his proposal. “We have scrubbed the budget. We have identified reductions which I’m sure we’ll be allowed to share with the city council. We’ve laid out other opportunities should they desire areas they could reduce the budget.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Johnson and Council Members will be briefed on the budget for the first time.
After holding town hall meetings, the Council will vote on the spending plan next month.
In addition to the budget, the City Manager was asked about Chief Rene Hall, who went on medical leave last month.
He said, “The Chief will be back when the Chief is healthy enough to be back.”
In a statement released after the budget news conference at City Hall, Broadnax said, “She remains committed to the Dallas Police Department and the City of Dallas.”
First Assistant Chief David Pughes is acting Police Chief until Hall returns.