When the dust settled Tuesday, just two hardliners remained at the Dallas City Council horseshoe, willing to resist pressure from their colleagues and Dallas' undermanned police force and vote against a pay raise for all of the city's police officers and firefighters. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and North Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman railed against the raises but came up short against those who wanted an election year bump in law and order spending.
As a result, the starting salary for all Dallas police and fire recruits will be increased to $60,000. Any personnel making less than that now will be raised to that level, and everyone else will get a 3 percent raise. The city will pay for the increases by lowering the property tax rate to 77.67 cents per $100 valuation, rather than the 76.5 cents suggested in City Manager T.C. Broadnax's initial budget. Last year's rate was 78.04 cents.
Thanks to rising property values, the new rate will put about $15 million more in city coffers than expected, paying for the raises. Over the month or so that the council and the mayor have debated the new city budget, Rawlings has complained that giving raises to first responders will weaken the city's bargaining position during its next round of salary negotiations with Dallas' police and fire departments.
Until Tuesday, Kleinman's issues with the raises focused primarily on the increase in taxes. Before his no vote on the city's budget, however, he singled out Dallas officers' performance as not being worthy of a raise.
"At a time, right now when our community is really hurting, when our community is in the streets asking for justice, it just does not seem appropriate to reward that kind of behavior with an increase across the board,” Kleinman said, referring to the protests that have followed off-duty Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger's killing Botham Jean in Jean's apartment. “Colleagues, it's shameful. We are now at yet another crossroads with who do we support as a council? Our community, our citizens, our taxpayers, our residents, or just the union bosses who take advantage of a mayoral election and council election coming up and take advantage of this council in unfathomable ways.”
Council members Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Jennifer Gates and Adam McGough, all rumored mayoral candidates, voted in favor of the raises. Last month, Griggs initially suggested 5 percent raises for public safety personnel. McGough suggested 3 percent as a compromise. His constituents want better-paid cops, he said in August.
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"Even some of my most conservative citizens are saying we need to pay our police and fire," McGough said. "I have to listen first. That's our job. ... It's important to get more officers, and it's important to take care of our police and fire that are there, so I'm supportive of additional raises for our police and fire."
Mike Mata, the head of one of Kleinman's frequent political sparring partners, the Dallas Police Association, accused the council member of making Dallas more dangerous for police officers, in an interview with KDFW-TV.
“To say anything that would incite violence or negative reaction to public safety and their family members is low. I don't think he could get any worse,” Mata said. “The fact that the mayor did not in any way, shape or form tell him that's enough, or tell him that isn't reasonable, I think he failed it too. I think police and fire deserve better than that."
The raises for Dallas police and firefighters will go into effect Jan. 1.