This story has been updated with additional information about the budget proposal.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax unveiled a proposed $4.35 billion budget for the next fiscal year on Saturday, saying he believes it will address issues in delivery of basic services and tackle long-term problems facing residents.
The plan also would add 250 more police officers starting in the fall.
Boosted by the receipt of millions more in property and sales tax revenue than anticipated, Broadnax’s suggested budget features increased spending across multiple city departments.
The proposed budget amount is $500 million more than the $3.85 billion plan adopted last September.
[Read the full budget proposal for fiscal year 2021-22.]
[Read the executive summary of the budget proposal.]
Public safety initiatives will get a chunk of the increase. The added money comes a year after the City Council’s decision to cut the Dallas Police Department’s overtime budget. The move led to discord among the elected body and others who said the move went against efforts to tackle rising violent crime.
In addition to the plan to hire more officers, Broadnax wants to nearly double DPD’s current $17.3 million overtime budget.
The proposal calls for a 0.3-cent drop in the property tax rate, or a move from 77.6 cents per $100 valuation to 77.3 cents per $100.
The proposal also includes a $7,000 increase in the homestead property-tax exemption for disabled owners and for those 65 and older, bringing it to $107,000. Council members approved the exemption in June.
The spending plan includes $150 million for street repaving, as well as a nearly $4-a-month increase in sanitation fees to fund improvements to trash pickup after persistent service delays.
The plan benefits from millions more in property- and sales-tax revenue than anticipated.
Dallas received some $1.2 billion in property taxes and over $344 million in sales taxes. Both revenue sources make up nearly 80% of the city’s general fund.
Dallas also received $177.5 million in federal stimulus money and grants in 2021 and will receive the same amount in 2022. The city plans to spend that on infrastructure projects, COVID- and safety-related measures, expanded homelessness services, economic development and other priorities such as mental health care.
The budget proposal would give the Police Department a roughly $53 million bump in general fund money — an increase that is the largest among all city departments and would take DPD’s budget to about $567 million. Dallas Fire-Rescue would get the next-highest increase: $20 million. That would give DFR a budget of nearly $336 million.
Among the few departments targeted for a drop in general fund money are the Office of Homeless Solutions (a reduction of over $450,000 from the office’s current $12.4 million allocation) and the Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability (a nearly $400,000 drop from its current $4.2 million).
Broadnax told council members in June that his proposal would be “the best budget any of you have ever seen in your entire lifetime.”
In a news conference Saturday, he backed off that claim, instead saying he felt this is the most “impactful” budget plan of his five years as Dallas’ top administrative official, thanks largely to the injection of federal money.
“I think the residents, once they know more about what’s in this budget, will be excited about some of things we’re trying to do and some of the areas we’re addressing that years before we have not been able to address,” Broadnax said.
The City Council is to discuss the proposal Tuesday, and will adopt a final spending plan on Sept. 22. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Broadnax suggests the city hire 500 police officers over the next two fiscal years. The 250-officer-a-year goal is 100 more than the city was projecting as recently as last month, but it is still shy of the 275 a year that Mayor Eric Johnson requested in a memo to Broadnax last month.
Factoring in attrition, the city anticipates having 3,110 officers by the end of September and 3,200 by the end of September 2023. The department has around 3,100 officers now.
More officers would be put on patrol. The city also plans to buy 30 new police cars so more officers can ride solo, according to Broadnax.
Plans are in the works to hire 42 people in the transportation department and have more of its employees, rather than police officers, handle blocking off roads for accidents and road hazards.
Broadnax is recommending a $14 million increase in the police overtime budget. His proposal calls for setting aside $8.5 million in federal stimulus money to help cover that, with the rest coming from the general fund.
The current police overtime budget is $17.3 million. The city estimates needing to pay twice that amount by the end of the current fiscal year in September.
Programs that were paid for with $7 million reallocated from the police overtime budget last year would continue using other funding sources.
The city also planned to spend a majority of the reallocated money on hiring 95 more civilians to staff desk jobs filled by sworn officers. DPD reported last month that 52 jobs have shifted from sworn officers to civilian workers.
The budget proposal includes $5 million in federal stimulus money to improve street lights over the next two years, and $800,000 from the general fund will go toward the violence interrupters program.
Sixty-two new hires are planned at the 911 call center to improve response times, including 44 call takers and 12 dispatchers. The budget would move starting pay for call takers to $43,800 a year, a bump of $7,200 or nearly 20%.
Grappling with staffing shortages, the call center has struggled to answer 911 calls within the national standard of 10 seconds and recently trained hundreds of police officers to fill in for call takers.
The plan calls for spending $2 million to double the number of RIGHT Care teams responding to mental health-related calls to 10.
Fourteen new paramedics will be hired by Dallas Fire-Rescue to aid the RIGHT Care teams.
Higher worker pay
Minimum wage for full- and part-time, seasonal and temporary city employees is planned to increase to $15.50 an hour this year and $16 an hour next year from the current $14. The budget also calls for bumping up police and firefighter starting salaries to $64,194 a year from the current minimum base of $61,367.
Six weeks of paid parental leave would be offered to full-time city employees starting in January. The mayor suggested in May that the city consider adding such a policy.
Starting pay for sanitation truck drivers would increase from $16.50 an hour to $20. The plan also calls for adding more contractor help to get brush and bulk trash picked up on time.
On-board camera systems would be added to sanitation trucks under the budget plan. The city also plans to change how it collects brush and bulk trash by shifting to bulk quarterly pickups instead of monthly.
The changes are aimed at addressing long delays in garbage, recycling, brush and bulk trash pickup, as well as shortages of truck drivers who are paid under industry standards and temporary workers who have been earning even less.
Residents would see a monthly service fee increase by $3.78 if the plan is adopted.
The budget proposal calls for spending $150 million to repave hundreds of miles of roads — part of a plan to spend $300 million over the next two years to repave 1,700 lane miles. It also includes money to improve and add new sidewalks, and replace 1,000 outdated school-zone flashing beacons. And it calls for spending $5 million to repaint almost 1,000 miles of lane markings and over 800 crosswalks.
Also proposed is $500,000 in spending on street markings, street signs and speed bumps to address residential neighborhood traffic concerns, as well as $200,000 for a pilot program aimed at decreasing street racing by putting barriers in major intersections.
Also in Broadnax’s budget plans are plans to establish a small-business center with a focus that includes women- and minority-owned business programs and help for people re-entering the workforce after being incarcerated.
The budget proposes installing $10 million worth of water and sewer infrastructure to encourage more housing construction.
Broadnax suggests hiring 31 more code enforcement officers and funding a pilot program to begin cleaning more than 1,300 neighborhood alleys that have overgrown weeds and illegal dumping. The city believes 40 of those stretches could be converted into trails with improved paths and lighting.
The proposal includes money for a new city position that would coordinate the translation of public information for non-English speakers.
Want to weigh in?
Council members are scheduled to host virtual, in-person and telephone town hall meetings from Thursday until Aug. 26 for the public to weigh in on the proposed budget.