Amid demands by the far-left to raid $200 million in taxpayer funds from police, and citizen outcries for full funding of police, Dallas City Council gave neither side exactly what they asked for, while still hiking taxes. The city budget still projects a declining number of sworn police officers, and city council will be facing a $62 million revenue shortfall next year.

On Wednesday, Dallas City Council voted on the final budget and property tax rate for the new fiscal year starting next month. According to data from the Dallas Central Appraisal District, the property tax rate council approved last night, $0.7763 per $100 valuation, will result in a 5.24 percent hike from last year in the average homeowner’s city property tax bill—a 64 percent increase since 2013.

Left unaddressed for now is the big budget deficit the city will face next year.

“What really scares me is next year when we have a $62 million hole,” Councilmember Paula Blackmon said.

The budget passed with only Mayor Eric Johnson, Councilmembers Adam Medrano, Adam McGough, Lee Kleinman, Cara Mendelsohn, and Jennifer Gates voting against.

Conflict arose in Dallas after city council announced plans earlier this month to raid $7 million from the police overtime budget to grow other government programs—despite increases in violent crime, complaints about long wait times for 911 calls, and pleas from South Dallas residents for more police protection.

The proposed budget also projects a steady decline in police officers despite an increase in the overall police budget.

Citizens arose to pressure council to back down from defunding police overtime, holding a “Back the Blue” rally in front of city hall Tuesday.

“We’re going to vote, we’re going to make phone calls, we’re going to send emails, and we’re going to make our voices heard. We’re going to make our position known,” grassroots leader Troy Jackson told other citizens assembled that day.

Two more back-the-blue rallies are planned in October.

City council yielded somewhat to citizen pressure. Councilmember Adam Bazaldua submitted a change to his prior amendment, taking the majority of that $7 million and using it to hire 95 civilian personnel so the same number of sworn police officers could be moved from desk work to patrol.

“I can agree with that to a certain extent,” Jackson said about the civilian personnel swap. “But we need to know what is it that these 95 people are doing, because if we don’t know what they’re doing how do we know they can serve the city in the same manner that those sworn personnel officers did.”

“If you’re … moving out somebody with more knowledge of the job, bringing in somebody with less knowledge and less capabilities, then you’re still doing us a disservice.”

There’s also Dallas’ history with police overtime. Data presented by city Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich shows that since 2013, Dallas has consistently spent more on police overtime than what they budgeted for.

“We exceeded our overtime budget this year, and most of it is from the protesting this year,” Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn cautioned. “We’re probably going to have more protesting.”

Mendelsohn also objected to council plans to use the city’s emergency fund to fill any gaps in police overtime. “It’s irresponsible budgeting expecting to use an emergency reserve account,” she added.

“This is merely an effort to cut police overtime for it’s own sake,” Mayor Johnson told council. “That’s not heeding our residents’ concerns, it’s a shell game.”

Bazaldua’s amendment passed with only Johnson, McGough, Mendelsohn, and Gates voting against.

“This budget did not defund the police,” Councilman Chad West said in a statement. “This public safety amendment simply directs DPD to adjust its staffing levels to lower overtime and put more desk officers on the streets which is a great thing for our communities.”

“The largest cost driver is general municipal governance; the good/bad would be in where the personnel are moved from/to,” said Derek Cohen, of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s criminal justice reform project Right on Crime. “Overtime itself is neither bad or good, like the personnel usage it depends on how it’s used.”

The far-left Dallas Police Oversight Coalition, which turned out in force during the city council meeting, demanded councilmembers raid $200 million from the Dallas Police Department to spend on other government programs, such as the arts, “green spaces,” and “cultural centers.” They defined this as “Defunding the Police.” As part of their activism, they recently targeted donors to council members and personally contacted them, advocating to them for raiding taxpayer dollars.

Controversial “Defund Police” activist Dominique Alexander was among the speakers.

Speakers Wednesday pushing this raid repeatedly promoted the “Our City, Our Future Budget Demands,” which advocates more government spending and growth.

They did not sound pleased with Bazaldua’s change to his amendment, and made it clear what their intentions were in the next city council elections. “Coming May 2021 we’re coming after all y’alls seats,” Chelly Cruz told council members.

During Tuesday’s Back the Blue rally, Jackson gave advice to citizens concerned about police funding.

“Let us continue to speak up, continue to speak out, continue to keep their voicemails full, continue to make appointments and sit in front of them, and voice our concerns to make sure that our law enforcement gets everything that they need to do their job,” he advised.

Citizens can find detailed information on city budgets at the city website.

Concerned voters may contact the Dallas City Council and Mayor Eric 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.


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