UPDATE 8/25/20 1:26 PM: Dallas Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn replied to grassroots activist Troy Jackson’s claim that there would be no police academy next year. “This is incorrect – there will be a police academy and hiring of police academy classes. Through COVID-19, the classes have continued (33 new officers sworn in last week!). If they leave at a slower rate than expected (which happened this year), we will increase the number of officers instead of [lowering] staffing numbers.”  

Mendelsohn added there is $23,818,926 in the city manager’s draft budget for police academy & in-service training. She will also propose a property tax rate lower than what is in the proposed budget.

This summer, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he wanted to cut spending before discussing hiking taxes. After the economy and people’s wallets shrank as a result of government shutdowns, the city’s proposed new budget would hike spending and taxes—but provide fewer cops.

If the proposed budget and tax rate are adopted, the city council will once again hike the average property tax bills of both seniors and non-seniors.

According to data from the Dallas Central Appraisal District, the Dallas City Council increased the average property tax bill for homeowners over 9 percent from 2018 to 2019—$1,580 to $1,723.

The proposed budget for 2020-2021 is over $3.8 billion, higher than the current budget that council approved last year of over $3.7 billion.

Citizens are also being asked to pay higher fees for city services.

And despite spending increases of over $758,000, there will be even fewer Dallas police officers.

“There’s not going to be any police academy next year, which means there’s not going to be any hiring,” grassroots leader Troy Jackson told Texas Scorecard. “They’re blaming it on COVID.”

“You have officers retiring … you have officers resigning because they’re going to other departments. But you’re not going to be able to add any officers to your current officer roster.”

Earlier this year, South Dallas citizens asked for more police protection to deal with rising crime. With talk that the Dallas Police Department is already understaffed, it’s unclear how the city can fulfill this request as the number of sworn-in police officers continue to fall.

“The real crisis with DPD is a 911 that routinely goes right on hold … 10 minutes being normal,” said Warren Johnson, a former candidate for city council.

This year, Dallas citizens are being hurt by government shutdowns in response to the Chinese coronavirus—shutdowns that increased unemployment and shrank citizens’ wallets.

These spending increases and tax hikes are the opposite of what Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he wanted. “I don’t think that a tax increase discussion even is appropriate before we clean our own house,” he said at council’s May 27 meeting.

There’s also a question of if Dallas even needs more funding, as they have already received $234 million in federal taxpayers’ money from Congress’ $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In June, Dallas Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich told council members that the city was seeking even more money through taxpayer-funded grants, private entities, and future congressional action—including more flexibility on how to spend CARES Act funds.

“Are we really in a serious budget crunch?” Councilman David Blewett asked Reich during the June council meeting, suggesting that with all of these flows of federal taxpayer dollars, the city government is doing just fine while Dallas residents are having to tighten their belts.

With this proposed budget, it’s clear that tax hikes with less law and order are coming.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we pass another tax increase,” Councilman Lee Kleinman said in June. In that meeting, Councilmembers Chad West and Cara Mendelsohn also expressed disapproval of the idea of hiking taxes.

The city council is scheduled to adopt the budget and tax rate on September 23. Concerned voters may contact the Dallas City Council and Mayor Johnson.

Lee Kleinman: sophia.figueroa@dallascityhall.com214-670-7817
Adam Medrano: adam.medrano@dallascityhall.com214-670-4048
Tennell Atkins: maria.salazar2@dallascityhall.com214-670-4066
Adam Bazaldua: Yesenia.Valdez@dallascityhall.com214-670-4689
David Blewett: david.blewett@dallascityhall.com214-670-5415
Adam McGough: adam.mcgough@dallascityhall.com214-670-4068
Chad West: Chad.West@dallascityhall.com214-670-0776
Casey Thomas: richard.soto@dallascityhall.com214-670-0777
Carolyn King Arnold: District4@DallasCityHall.com214-670-0781
Jaime Resendez: jaime.resendez@dallascityhall.com214-670-4052
Tennell Atkins: maria.salazar2@dallascityhall.com214-670-4066
Paula Blackmon: District9@DallasCityHall.com214-670-4069
Adam McGough: adam.mcgough@dallascityhall.com214-670-4068
Cara Mendelsohn: cara.mendelsohn@dallascityhall.com214-670-4067
David Blewett: david.blewett@dallascityhall.com214-670-5415
Jennifer Gates: jennifer.gates@dallascityhall.com214-670-7057

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.