This week the Dallas City Council completed its single most important task of 2016 when it passed the city of Dallas' budget for the next fiscal year. Like the city itself, the new budget was heavily influenced by Dallas' formative event of 2016, the July 7 police ambush that killed five Dallas police officers. This move isn't without controversy. Here are five of the biggest takeaways from the new, $1.2 billion general fund budget.
1. Public safety is king. — About a quarter of the city's budget, $732 million, is slated to go to the police and fire departments. It's a $41 million increase from 2015. Much of the cash will be allocated to hiring new cops. In order to bring the department back over 3,500 officers, 449 cops are slated to be hired in the next year, with another 100 cops scheduled to be added in the two years thereafter. Cops will be getting raises as well. The details of the pay hike haven't been hammered out with the police unions yet, but a 5 percent across the board increase is expected.
2. The streets are still going to suck. — Dallas residents have repeatedly told the city that fixing aging and damaged streets should be the city's first budget priority. This year, at least, that still isn't happening. There's $84 million in the budget set to go to street maintenance, but that won't even keep the streets at their current level, much less make them any better. An additional $27 million in bond money, from a 2017 bond election that hasn't even been called yet, is tentatively set to go to streets. That cash would keep them just as they are now, not any worse, but not any better either.
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3. The city has yet to put its money where its mouth is on homelessness. — Just $1 million of the city's general fund is slated to go to new programs intended to help solve homelessness in the city of Dallas, despite the city's high profile struggles with tent cities and their attendant problems throughout 2016. Council member Mark Clayton lamented that more wasn't being done on Wednesday. "Poor people don't have lobbyists," he said. "So disheartening."
4. Dallas Animal Services is getting some help. — Following a year that saw the mauling death of Antoinette Brown in South Dallas and a city-commissioned report reveal that there are more than 8,500 loose dogs south of I-30, Dallas Animal Services is getting a $3.2 million bump to its budget, bringing its funding to about $13.5 million. The additional cash will help pay for a new, low-cost spay and neuter program intended to curb the loose dog problem and for new, night-shift DAS workers.
5. The money for the Fair Park transition is there. — There is $7 million in the budget slated to be handed over if and when the council approves transferring the day-to-day operation of Fair Park to Walt Humann's Fair Park Foundation. The $7 million, plus the $10 million the city itself planned to spend on running the park, will become the city's $17 million first year contribution to the foundation.