By Jack Fink

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Mellisa Johnson said she and her husband still love their neighborhood near Dallas Love Field.

“We have lived here 36 years going on 37.”

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During the past five years, Johnson said they’ve watched their assessed value rise from $200,000 to $280,000, and their property taxes increase by $2,000.

She said it’s had an impact on their neighbors, too.

“A lot of people are moving out because of the taxes,” she said. “They can’t afford them.”

While considering next year’s proposed $1.5 billion general fund budget Wednesday, August 25, Dallas council members decided to keep City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s proposed property tax rate as the maximum rate.

His proposal would lower it to 77.33 cents per 100 dollars valuation, down from 77.63 cents this year.

The city said a resident in a home appraised at $255,720 would receive $6.14 in savings on their property taxes next year.

Council members can still lower that rate, but not raise it.

A proposal by Council Member Cara Mendelsohn would have lowered that rate by a full penny to 76.63 cents per $100 valuation.

Under that rate, tax savings would have climbed to $14.32 on that $255,720 home.

“We know we can do better,” Mendelsohn told council members. “Our residents deserve for us to do the work needed to reduce this tax rate so they are not taxed out of their homes and apartment rents don’t continue to rise out of control. Let’s give our taxpayers some comfort that we understand the big tax burden and the difficulties they face through this pandemic.”

But lowering the rate would have required council members to cut the proposed budget by $10.8 million dollars during the meeting.

In a narrow 8-7 vote, council members said before cutting the property tax rate further, they wanted to propose amendments to the budget, and measure the growing needs of many residents.

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A short time later, only two council members, Mendelsohn and Gay Donnell Willis, voted against sticking with the City Manager’s proposal as the maximum tax rate.

“It would be great if the savings created by this proposal or proposals coming down the pike could be labeled as reparations for the underserved and put that in the budget,” said council member Carolyn King Arnold.  “Put all that money that we’re going to save toward services for those who keep asking us for basic services.”

Council member Omar Narvaez said, “I’m not going to be able to support it because we just don’t know where we’re going to cut $10.8 million from, and I’d rather go through the exercise that was already set which has allowed us to look at the budget. Let the public look at this budget.”

Council member Tennell Atkins said, “I do understand the exercise. We do need to save the taxpayers money. But I think we should have a great discussion. I think the time is not right today to do it.”

Mendelsohn pointed out the city will see property tax revenues rise by $48 million dollars next year, nearly half of it from new construction.

The city will receive $355.4 million in Covid-19 relief funds from the federal government.

But a city spokeswoman said that money is not part of the $1.5 billion general fund.

The director of the city’s Budget and Management Services, Jack Ireland, told council members the city aims to spend the federal relief funds on one-time expenses during the next three years.

As for Mellisa Johnson, she’s hoping a lower tax rate will take some of the sting out of rising property values.

“It’s hard, very hard. We want to stay in our home. We’re not interested in moving.”

Council members and the city will hold the final three public townhall meetings on the budget Thursday.

The council will take a final vote on the budget September 22nd.

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It takes effect October 1.