Dallas city council members admitted a record $ 4.3 billion budget for the first time on Thursday after a last-minute controversy over police overtime money.
The spending plan benefits from $ 355 million in federal COVID-19 aid funding. This includes a slight reduction in the property tax rate. Councilors Cara Mendelsohn and Adam McGough voted against. Mendelsohn has repeatedly said that she wanted a greater reduction in the tax rate. Most taxpayers will pay higher bills due to rising property values.
There was an 8-7 vote to divert $ 10 million in police overtime pay to a reserve account.
“We’re tired of not getting answers when we call. So I cannot support handcuffing these officers, ”said Councilor Carolyn Arnold.
Proponents of the budget change said a new state law passed after calling for a “defuse” of the police last year now forbids reducing city police spending below the amount included in this new budget.
Councilor Chad West proposed to start this year with a lower amount for the police.
“It gives us and the council more flexibility in the future if there are budget issues due to COVID or something else,” West said.
Several councilors said it was a token vote to respond to state lawmakers who imposed their will on city households.
“Make sure we keep our local budgets in control at the local level instead of being bullied by those in Austin for political points,” Councilor Adam Bazaldua said.
The police will get the overtime pay back from the reserve account and Chief Eddie Garcia said the money is needed.
“Taking $ 10 million from that budget for police overtime is a bad idea, just like it was last year. And we will go through the budget like last year, ”said City Councilor Cara Mendelsohn.
Despite the overtime rerouting, the Dallas Police Department is still getting $ 8 million more than last year in their $ 583 million portion of the city budget, most of it from all departments.
The police budget provides for the recruitment and training of 250 more officers, although some of the recruitment could be offset by the departure of officers. More patrol cars will also be added to increase the visibility of the patrols.
Several city council speakers called for the police not to receive additional money and for more spending to be allocated to crime prevention programs.
“Adding police does not increase security. They only respond to crimes, “said spokesman Carvell Bowens.
Speakers said their research shows Dallas will spend about $ 422 on police for each resident, compared to about $ 49 on housing and homeless solutions.
“When you work to build the Dallas we deserve, you are spending more money on services for our communities, not the police,” said Tearyne Almendariz.
The speaker could not convince the city council.
A second Dallas city budget approval is required later in September before it goes into effect October 1, and more changes are still possible, but Thursday’s vote is a big step after months of public meetings and voter input.