A new budget proposal from Dallas City Manager TC Broadnax shared with city council members Friday received initial support from Mayor Eric Johnson.
“I like the bones of it and I like the bones of it because I like the fact that it prioritizes public safety and tax reduction,” Johnson said.
A tax rate reduction of $2.75 is in the plan, reducing a comparatively high Dallas rate of $77.33 to $74.58 per $100 value.
The total proposed budget would rise to $4.51 billion from $4.35 billion. The general fund that pays for key city services like public safety would increase to $1.71 billion from $1.54 billion.
The Dallas Police force grew smaller each of the past two years despite efforts to hire more officers because the number leaving outpaced hiring.
From a peak of 3,690 in 2011, the force was 3,084 at the end of July 31, 2022.
Response to calls is slower.
Police officials and union leaders said all sections of the police department have a need for more people.
“We’re short patrol officers so that’s going to be a lag time in answering those 911 calls. We’re short investigators,” Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said.
The proposed city budget released Friday calls for hiring 250 more police officers over the next year.
The current budget called for that, too, but so far in the budget cycle that ends September 30, only 150 have been hired.
“Every police department is trying to get that same group of officers,” Mata said.
Dallas recently increased starting pay for police and firefighters to match surrounding cities, but a very competitive market exists for all job candidates.
“If you want to reinvest in the community that you come from, there’s no better way to do it than joining the Dallas Police Department,” Assistant Dallas Chief Catrina Shead said.
She leads the Dallas Police recruiting effort and she serves as a role model for what is possible for recruits.
The native of Oak Cliff and Carter High School graduate became a Dallas Police officer in 1994 and she has risen through the ranks.
“She’s a shining example of what this department is trying to do,” Mata said. “You too can be just like her, start as a patrol officer and work your way up to be a Two-Star Chief.”
Dallas Police have sent recruiters to Puerto Rico and other distant places looking for strong candidates with some success.
But Shead said today’s hires expect extras like childcare, relocation benefits and streamlined hiring on a single visit to the city that Dallas has not offered in the past.
“The flexibility, if you understand the new and up and coming generation, the things that they want, those are the things this department and this city have to put in place to encourage those individuals to join this department,” Shead said.
The competitive job market is also attractive to current officers who decide to leave for safer careers.
“There’s a lot of opportunities outside of DPD to create a second profession. So, getting them to stay is difficult and getting people into the profession is even more difficult,” Mata said.
The union leader said he hopes the community will help support people who want to become officers.
And Mata said even higher pay may be needed to lure the best candidates that every city is seeking.
“We really need to be in the top 5 cities as far as competitive,” Mata said.
Despite the proposed property tax rate cut that amounts to a reduction of 3.5%, property owners will still likely pay more because average residential property taxable values in Dallas have risen by 15.8%.
Mayor Johnson said the city manager’s plan is in the right direction with the top priorities of public safety and tax rate reduction.
“Our residents are under financial pressure and the city needs to do everything it can to help alleviate that burden. So, this budget goes a long way in those regards and so I want to commend the city manager for giving us a budget to consider that prioritizes public safety and tax reduction,” Johnson said.
In June Mayor Johnson called for the replacement of City Manager TC Broadnax.
Johnson backed down on that push after Broadnax received support and Johnson said then that the review would be rescheduled for August.
Friday, Johnson said the manager’s performance will still be reviewed but a new budget is the current focus.
“Right now, my focus is on the budget. I know the city manager’s focus is on the budget. The council’s focus is on the budget. And we need to pass a budget that prioritizes public safety and tax reduction like this proposed budget starts to do,” Johnson said.
Dallas leaders have until the end of September to approve a new budget.