DALLAS — The City Council late Wednesday [September 23] approved the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget on final reading by a 9-6 vote.
The final vote was the closest in Dallas since 2010. That year, the budget was adopted on an 8-7 vote.
Mayor Johnson was among the City Councilmembers who voted against the budget as amended. He also voted against the property tax rate and increases in fees.
The mayor issued the following statement after the vote:
Today, I voted against the proposed Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget. While I am not the first mayor to vote against an annual budget, this wasn’t a vote that I took lightly.
Many high-priority items made it into the final budget. But ultimately, in this pandemic, I could not support a budget in which we didn’t touch the bureaucracy and failed to share in the pain with residents in any discernible way. This budget underfunds public safety and street infrastructure and leaves the tax rate as one of the highest in the state, making us less competitive for anyone looking to make their lives here and move their businesses here. I was stunned that a majority of the City Council rejected amendments today to lower the tax rate further in favor of what City Councilmember Lee Kleinman described as “horse-trading” of pet projects.
We’re going to have to grapple with these issues again next year when the fiscal outlook is worse and we cannot expect to patch holes with federal dollars.
To me, the 25% cut to the police overtime budget during a violent crime spike is particularly egregious. That is the equivalent of cutting more than half of the overtime for patrol this fiscal year, and it amounts to far more than the overtime used by the investigative units that work to solve crimes and put violent offenders behind bars. Even more puzzling was the fact that they cast the vote even after Assistant Chief Lonzo Anderson told the City Council that overtime is “critical” to police operations and after Police Chief Renee Hall said that it is “proven that (overtime) is not mismanaged” at the Dallas Police Department or abused as some City Councilmembers suggested.
After finding other sources of revenue for pet projects in the budget, the majority of the City Council seemed intent on cutting the overtime budget for the mere sake of doing so, and not for the benefit of public safety.
Despite this cut, I hope we can still find ways to reduce violent crime and keep our city safe. But I fear that, at best, this decision to cut overtime equates to a shell game that will leave us scrambling next summer to find additional money for public safety, possibly from our reserves, which is not prudent.
While I am disappointed by the outcome, I am excited that we engaged the public in an unprecedented way during this budget process. Thousands of people spoke up and made clear that public safety is their top priority. That made the process better.
Our residents also started a long-needed conversation about how we can make our city government more efficient, more responsive, and more equitable. We’re still in a pandemic and a recession, and we owe it to our residents to have difficult conversations about what our city needs and where we are falling short. This budget cycle marked the beginning, not the end, of that critical discussion. I look forward to working together to move our city forward.