During what was otherwise a typically boring briefing on the city's budget process, a mildly interesting discussion about a subject many of us care about actually broke out: What to do about Dallas' increasingly bad streets.
For a brief moment Wednesday, it seemed as if a few members of the council were suggesting something dramatic to help solve the problem — raising property taxes by a couple of cents.
“I just know that I’m going to hear a whole bunch about the fact that I used that word: tax,” council member Sandy Greyson said. “But I just want to have a straightforward conversation with the citizens about [how] the money has to come from somewhere.”
Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said that each penny added to property tax rates nets the city about $9 million. Greyson, and her fellow council member Carolyn Davis, stressed the need for money that was earmarked for streets. Money that isn't specifically set aside for road maintenance is too often diverted elsewhere, they said.
Of course, a tax increase has no chance in hell of happening. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has said repeatedly that he isn't open to the idea, and council members reactions to Greyson's utterance didn't do anything to dispel that notion.
"That's off the table as far as I'm concerned," Rawlings said of any potential tax increase.
Gonzalez said that city staff has been operating under the assumption that increased taxes were not an option as it looks at fixing streets as well.
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So, outside of raising taxes, what's left? Basically, raising water rates for Dallas residents, a bond package or making cuts to other areas of the budget.
"Our spending reflects our priorities," council member Scott Griggs said, urging Gonzalez to allocate more money to street and alley repairs as the manager and city staff move through this year's budget process.
Dwaine Caraway, as he so often does, offered a comment that perfectly crystallized the discussion.
"We may not have a choice [in how the city's streets and alleys are repaired] if we fail to act futuristically," the council member said.