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Open Letter from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

The Dallas City Council approved a budget increase and tax rate decrease.
The Dallas City Council approved a budget increase and tax rate decrease.
Library Of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

You probably know that I am not afraid to vote against a city budget.

After all, back in 2020, I did just that. That was because the budget then didn’t meet residents’ needs to the levels it could have and should have. The budget that year included public safety cutbacks, lacked meaningful tax relief, and did not provide for sufficient infrastructure spending.

So, hopefully, my vote in favor of this year’s new annual budget will also speak volumes.

The vote this year was 15-0 — the first unanimous vote on the budget since 2019.

That’s indicative of a strong budget. That’s not to say it’s perfect, of course. No budget is. There are many needs across this city and limited resources. And elected officials and city staff all have competing priorities they want to have addressed.

But overall, this budget very closely aligns with the top priorities that I outlined earlier this summer.

Public safety needed to come first. The goal must be to become the safest major city in the nation. That won’t happen overnight, but this budget is another significant step in the right direction because it recommits to both robust data-driven policing strategies and community-based solutions to deter violent crime.

And this budget helps meet the increasing needs of Dallas firefighters and paramedics — as well as those of the residents who rely on them in life-threatening situations.

Residents also needed tax relief to help mitigate the rising cost of housing. As you all know, city government doesn’t determine your home’s value — that’s the county appraisal districts. But the Dallas City Council can control the tax rate. And this is the largest rate cut in at least four decades in this city — and the lowest tax rate since 2006.

Yes, it should have been an even bigger cut. But an amendment to cut the tax rate further unfortunately didn’t get majority support from the Dallas City Council.

Still, this was a historic move in the right direction.

This is also a budget that invests in families and neighborhoods. The budget continues to fund much-needed infrastructure improvements, addresses homelessness through new strategies, increases library hours, and tackles code issues.

The Dallas City Council approved a contentious rezoning
The Dallas City Council approved a contentious rezoning clearing the way for a large high-rise apartment building overlooking the Katy Trail. Credit: Jake Dean / Dallas Business Journal

To recap, the Fiscal Year 2022–23 budget includes:

  • A 2.75-cent tax-rate reduction — the largest tax-rate reduction in modern Dallas history.
  • An increase in the age-65 or older and disabled homestead exemption from $107,000 to $115,500.
  • A plan to hire 250 police officers during the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Market-based salary increases for police and firefighters and a retention bonus program to retain veteran officers.
  • A new night detail unit to work in the city’s entertainment districts during peak hours.
  • Increases in training instructors and hiring for Dallas Fire-Rescue.
  • The purchases of an additional ambulance and a fire engine in addition to replacement vehicles.
  • $1.75 million to address the highest-priority Dallas Fire-Rescue facility repairs.
  • A new $3 million master leasing program to rapidly rehouse people experiencing homelessness.
  • A new $1 million capacity grant program for nonprofits that help address homelessness in this city.
  • Additional Code Compliance officers to inspect multi-family properties and deal with illegal dumping.
  • A $157 million plan to maintain street infrastructure.
  • Full staffing support for the new Office of Inspector General, which will monitor, investigate, and prosecute ethics complaints and corruption cases.
  • An expansion of hours of operation for libraries across the city.

This city has an incredibly bright future. And this budget can help address long-standing issues while building a city government that is as strong as the people of Dallas.

And while this year’s budget process is over, your feedback, as always, remains critical. The city manager and his team are now responsible for putting this document into action. The Dallas City Council must provide oversight. And there are many more policy discussions ahead that will shape next year’s budget.

But thanks for all your thoughts, and remember to stay engaged throughout the year!

Time to visit a Dallas park
At Pacific Plaza Park, kids can enjoy the new Juneteenth Story Walk.

The weather is cooling off, which means it’s the perfect time to enjoy a city park or trail. Here are a few things to consider this month:

At Pacific Plaza Park, kids can enjoy the new Juneteenth Story Walk. It was an honor to kick off the exhibit with the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Texas’ own Opal Lee.

At Fair Park, the great State Fair of Texas has officially begun! Check out the schedule here before you make your visit.

At Klyde Warren Park, it’s the 10th anniversary of the innovative park’s opening! Festivities are ongoing, and the exciting new Nancy Best Fountain is now open!

And the historic Cedar Crest Golf Course has officially reopened after the greens were replaced over the summer. A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the course — a jewel of southern Dallas — helped kick off the 10th Annual Radio One Golf Classic, which benefits kids from Dallas’ underserved and overlooked communities through the I AM A Golfer Foundation.

Also, don’t forget to spend some time at a neighborhood park near you.

Parks and trails are critical to Dallas neighborhoods, and adding new green space will be vital to the city’s future.

And now that it’s October, here’s a question for you: Which park do you think should be the October Park of the Month, and why? Reply to this email with your nomination and thoughts!

That’s all for today. Be kind to each other, go get a corny dog with Big Tex, and have a great Red River Showdown Week in the City of Dallas!

Until next time,

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