Dallas' property tax rate, the subject of several weeks of municipal drama, appears set to stay the same or lower than it was in 2018, despite Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax proposing a small tax rate increase in his initial draft of the city budget. Despite the decrease in expected revenue, many city social programs placed on the chopping block look like they will survive the budgetary ax.
After being leaned on by Dallas' fiscally conservative council members for his initial proposed increase — Dallas property owners would've paid $.78 per $100 of property valuation after paying $.7767 per $100 in 2018 — Broadnax dug deep and found about $9 million in his initially proposed budget to cut. That left his second draft at $.7767 per $100 and allowed for another $4 million or so to be allocated to council-identified priorities like after-school programs, more firefighters downtown and three senior city planners.
Broadnax's budget amendment — which found its savings with proposed cuts to salary and benefits reserves and city-funded LED signs, among other things — didn't take on any sacred cows, which left the fiscal hawks who'd pushed for property tax relief in the first place feeling like they'd gotten half a loaf.
"My biggest interest is just getting our tax rate down," council member Lee Kleinman said, before unveiling a bevy of budget cuts, all of which he wanted to use to work toward something he's wanted for years: an effective tax rate where homeowners pay the same amount of taxes as they did the previous year, despite their property values going up.
Kleinman proposed $6 million in cuts to Dallas' Office of Homeless Solutions, $300,000 in reductions to the city's new police oversight office and $4 million in cuts to the Dallas Parks Department. He suggested dropping Dallas' dental care program for seniors and the city's medical transportation program for seniors, too, so Dallas could throw another $500,000 toward reducing the tax rate. His fellow council members, he said, had more staff than they needed.
"I'm able to adequately address my constituents by going to the rec centers several times a month and holding office hours with my current staff," Kleinman said.
The list went on and on, eventually including the Dallas Police Department's mounted unit — Kleinman said that DPD using horses for crowd control curtailed the civil rights of those in the crowds being controlled.
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The council member's proposed amendments, as they have in previous budget fights, went over like a lead balloon.
Council member Casey Thomas said he was blindsided by the proposed social service cuts. Some council members need more staff, he said, because their constituents can't make it as easily to City Hall to have their concerns heard. The goal of the city budget, Thomas said, should be to bring equity to the city, rather than equality.
"It was a disgrace, and it was something I took personally, that individuals saw a need to eliminate several potential offices," Thomas said. "I'd prefer in the future if you came and talked with me."
The City Council passed Broadnax's budget amendment unanimously. It will take a final vote on the budget on Sept. 18.