DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas Council Members rejected by a large margin Mayor Eric Johnson’s highly-publicized, months-long push to cut salaries at City Hall. No council member voted for his proposals.
This happened during a “straw vote” as the mayor and council members discussed their 84 proposed amendments to next year’s proposed budget.
The general fund budget is more than $1.4 billion.
The Mayor said salaries should be cut at City Hall because many in the private sector and non-profit agencies have done the same. “I think we owe it to them to share, share in the sacrifice and provide more robust services. That’s why I’ve called for defunding the bureaucracy.”
Most council members didn’t want to talk about the Mayor’s amendments, and passed on the discussion altogether.
Various council members said the Mayor didn’t call them before-hand to discuss his amendments.
In response, Mayor Johnson said, “I don’t believe in back room dealing. I have made my views on these amendments clear and public. Discussions among elected officials regarding the people’s business should occur during open public meetings.”
Under the Mayor’s proposed amendments, the city would have saved $6.5 million in salaries and moved the funding to either public safety or improvements to streets and infrastructure or back to taxpayers. He proposed a sliding scale of salary cuts from Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who earns more than $400,000 a year down to employees who make $60,000 a year.
The Mayor said, “It cuts salaries of about ten percent of our total city workforce and it affects no one who makes less than $60,000.” Salaries of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics would have been exempt under the Mayor’s proposals.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough, who also serves as the chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, told the Mayor, “I think your uses of funds are right on point.” But McGough said he couldn’t go along with the salary cuts. “I have struggled with the amount of cuts at the top end of this and how deep it goes into the salaries and employees on the lower end of this thing.”
The Mayor didn’t return to the council briefing for the afternoon session. A spokesman said he had a family matter.
The straw votes that pass will be considered in the budget, but a spokesman for the Mayor said Wednesday that the Mayor will bring-up his proposed amendments again.
Mayor Johnson and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem McGough want to increase funding for public safety.
Other council members, such as Lee Kleinman want to reduce the Dallas Police Department’s proposed $516 million budget.
But council members also rejected a number of Kleinman’s proposed amendments. One of his proposals included having a regional facility train new recruits and eliminating the department’s training academy.
Kleinman said, “It’s not a good place and we need to put it in the hands of professional educators and take it out of the hands of police officers.”
But Council Member Cara Mendelsohn strongly disagreed. “We have an extensive high quality training program and I would never want to give it up and it’s one of the things that makes people want to come to Dallas and something we can be proud of.”
Other amendments proposed by Kleinman that failed include moving recruitment out of the department, eliminating new recruits, and eliminating step increases for police officers and firefighters.
During the discussion, Mendelsohn asked the police and fire departments how many officers and firefighters were impacted directly by COVID-19.
DPD said since March, 187 officers tested positive for the virus, three have been hospitalized with it, and 410 have been quarantined because of the virus. Dallas Fire Rescue said during the same time period, 123 firefighters and paramedics have tested positive for coronavirus, three have been hospitalized with it, and 561 have been quarantined.
Council members also decided to continue funding for the department’s $2.6 million Police Athletic League program.
Late Wednesday night, the council voted 11-3 to reduce Dallas PD’s overtime by $7 million. Part of the money — $1.65 million — would be used to hire 50 civilians in the department.
Some money would increase funding by $1 million for street light improvements in high-crime areas, a recommendation of Mayor Johnson’s Task Force on Safer Communities. Other funds would go to bike lane funding, street repairs, and affordable housing.
The council voted 9-5 to reduce overtime by $1.5 million at Dallas Fire Rescue.
While the votes are unofficial, the proposals will now be considered for the budget. The council meeting adjourned at 1:35 Thursday morning, more than 15 hours after it began.
The first of three votes on the budget will take place September 9. The final vote will take place September 23.
Next year’s budget takes effect October 1.
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