DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas City Council members debated next year’s proposed city budget into the early morning hours Thursday.
After debating about 80 amendments, they adjourned their meeting at 1:35 a.m.
The votes aren’t official, but those approved will be considered when the official votes are taken.
In the straw or unofficial vote, a majority of council members, 11-3, approved reducing the Dallas Police Department’s overtime budget by $7 million.
The police department’s proposed budget next year is more than $516 million and the general fund budget is more than $1.4 billion.
If council members finalize their straw vote, some of the police overtime money will go toward non-public safety programs such as bike lanes, street repairs, and raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour for part-time city employees.
Some of the overtime funding will go towards improving street lighting in high crime areas, a recommendation of Mayor Eric Johnson’s Task Force on Safer Communities — and some for hiring more civilians at DPD.
Council member Adam Bazaldua proposed the amendment and said Thursday that he wants DPD to operate more efficiently as outlined in a recent KPMG study. “The use of funds from this cut will go for a variety of things, but the biggest chunk is actually to expedite the hiring of civilian positions in the department. It’ll start with 21 positions that we’ll fill to directly replace uniformed officers to put them back into patrol roles, and then we will move forward to the 50 positions in the next fiscal year budget.”
Council members David Blewett, Paula Blackmon, Chad West, Tennell Atkins, Omar Narvaez and Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano co-sponsored the amendment.
But Mike Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association, said Thursday that council members are playing a shell game. “When we’re called, when we’re needed, we show up. The problem is you have to pay them, you have to pay your police and fire. So if you don’t have it in your left pocket, all they’re going to do is reach in their right pocket, which is the reserves. It really is disingenuous.”
Council members also approved Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough’s proposal to increase police training by $300,000.
McGough said he voted against cutting police overtime because it comes at a time when violent crime is on pace with last year’s record in the past ten years, and because the city is projected to lose more officers than it can hire, erasing recent gains. “My fear is that we’re taking a turn our detour as we start going from a positive trajectory and the number of officers in the training and reforms we’re putting in to a place where we’re now going to start going the other direction with officers.”
Council members also voted to reduce Dallas Fire-Rescue’s overtime budget by one and a half million dollars and use the money to maintain fire stations.
Both McGough and Bazaldua supported that amendment.
During the day Wednesday, council members rejected Mayor Johnson’s proposals to cut salaries at City Hall.
They also declined most proposals by council member Lee Kleinman that would have eliminated the police department’s training academy in favor of using a regional facility, moved recruitment efforts out of DPD, and eliminated hiring new recruits, and eliminated step increases for officers.
The first of three budget votes happens next Wednesday, and the final one takes place September 23.
The budget takes effect October 1.