A record $ 4.35 billion budget for the city of Dallas, final approved on Wednesday, puts public safety first, but some other functions get extra money, including road repairs.
The final vote after months of community budget meetings and city hall debates was 13-2, with Members Cara Mendelsohn and Gay Donnell Willis opposed over concerns about rising property taxes.
In the closing hours of this year’s budget debate, city councilors restored a $ 10 million cut in police overtime they had approved just two weeks ago.
Part of the larger budget comes from COVID-19 aid funds that will not be available in the coming years.
“That’s a damn good budget. I think it’s the best budget we’ve ever seen, ”said Councilor Chad West.
West voted for the final budget, although he opposed the restoration of police overtime pay and cited the overtime cut two weeks earlier.
He wanted Police Chief Eddie Garcia to return to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in the future if the money was required for overtime.
West said a preliminary audit report suggests there may have been a lack of police oversight of overtime in the past.
“56% of overtime was neglected in some way. That doesn’t mean that 56% had abuse. That means we don’t know, ”West said.
Councilor Paul Ridley on Wednesday also voted against the restoration of police overtime pay.
“I think we need accountability. I think taxpayers expect us to be accountable, ”said Ridley.
Mayor Eric Johnson cited violence in Deep Ellum Sunday, which killed a second of six shooting victims on Wednesday, as a justification for overtime pay.
“The police’s overtime budget is initially our backing against the increasing violence in our city. Chief Garcia has applied for this funding to complement his efforts, and I don’t think we should get him to get this money that he tells us we are going to need badly, “said Johnson.
The Dallas Police Department is hundreds of officers smaller than it was 10 years ago.
In a 12-3 overtime vote, most city councilors approved Mayor Johnson.
“And I think it’s important to keep sending the message that we support our first responders, we support our cops, and we equip them with the tools they need, including overtime while we are understaffed,” Councilor Adam McGough said.
The new budget also includes money to hire 250 more officers, pay increases for police and fire departments, and buy dozens of additional patrol cars to increase police patrol presence.
The leader of Mothers Against Police Brutality, Sara Mokuria, urged the council not to provide additional money for the police. She said the Dallas neighborhoods need more investment to increase public safety.
“DPD has consistently proven to be an ineffective intervention in creating a safe public over time,” said Mokuria.
The budget allocates funds to community programs to improve lighting and reduce putrefaction, treat substance abuse, and expand mental health alternatives to take police action.
There’s also better pay to attract and retain 911 operators and garbage disposal workers, both municipal services that have suffered from a lack of hiring difficulties.
The streets of Bad Dallas are receiving a $ 150 million repair budget, the largest yet, to start a multi-year program to reverse decades of neglect.
But the police get the largest share of the budget at around $ 565 million, including the city’s largest police budget of all time.
“We have seen some early signs of success from the chief of police in a crime reduction plan, but we have a lot more to do,” said Mayor Johnson.
Slightly lowering the property tax rate in the new household will not be enough to offset soaring Dallas real estate values. Most taxpayers will see higher bills.
Most council members said residents told them in community meetings that they wanted the services the new budget will provide and that they are willing to pay for them.
The new budget comes into force on October 1st.
The city of Dallas received a total of $ 627 million in federal COVID-19 aid some of them have been included in the new budget and some have already been spent in the current year.