Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson Thursday said he wants to see strong support for public safety and pay cuts for top executives in the new city budget that’s due to be released Friday.
Johnson made the requests in a memo he sent to City Manager T.C. Broadnax last Friday.
Police figures show the murder rate in Dallas this year is pacing at the same high rate as last year and aggravated assaults are occurring even more frequently.
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“Violent crime right now in the city of Dallas is unacceptably high right now, even in the middle of a pandemic,” Johnson said.
The coronavirus outbreak is no excuse for lack of crime reduction, according to the mayor.
“I want to see us continue to invest in public safety the way we committed to do last year,” Johnson said.
Coronavirus has made the city budget ill. A shortfall of up to $100 million was forecast earlier this year for the new spending plan that takes effect October 1, largely due to plummeting sales tax revenue from fewer Dallas shoppers and visitors.
On top of that, social justice demonstrators this year have demanded “defunding police” in favor of more spending on social programs that might address the root causes of crime.
Mayor Johnson said he favors expansion of some programs, including Right Care, which sends medical professionals instead of just police to mental health calls.
The mayor also wants to implement the January recommendations from his Safe Communities Task Force. It called for reducing blight, improving neighborhood lighting and working with schools to prevent violence.
“We can look at what we can be doing better at the police department, but we have to keep public safety at the top of the priority list,” Johnson said.
Thursday City Council Member Chad West and top city officials who deal with affordable housing and homelessness held a press conference to report on progress and promote spending on those efforts.
West sent a memo of this own to Broadnax last week with a different set of budget priorities.
“You have an economy that’s already struggling because of COVID. A lot of families are one personal crisis away from losing their home. If you lose your home, that is the basis of public safety. I believe public safety begins with having a home,” West said.
West wants to see the city follow through with a commitment of starting construction on 1,000 new units of affordable housing within the next year.
West said lack of staff and problems at the building permit office delay construction, which could add more homes to the tax roll and help provide property tax income that the city really needs now.
“We’re stalling our ability to get money in for those basic needs that our city has. So yes, that’s a priority,” West said.
Mayor Johnson said there is room to cut expenses in city government.
He proposes top executives take pay cuts on a sliding scale from a little as 1% for people earning less than $70,000 a year to 25% for people earning more than $250,000.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax is paid around $400,000 a year. His cut under the Johnson plan would be around $100,000.
The city charter sets pay for the Dallas Mayor at $80,000 a year. Johnson’s sliding scale would reduce his pay by 3.5%. If pay cuts for other workers are approved Johnson said he would make a donation of that amount to a crime-fighting fund.
Workers earning less than $60,000 a year are not asked by the mayor to take a pay cut.
Johnson said executives with other companies both non-profit and for-profit have taken pay cuts in the wake of coronavirus.
Johnson also called for consolidating city departments if possible to improve efficiency in the new budget.
“We should be looking at city hall and cutting from the bureaucracy before we start cutting services or raising taxes. That’s the commitment I’m making. I have to protect our residents from any further economic pain,” Johnson said.
City Manager T. C. Broadnax will release his 2020-2021 budget plan to city council members Friday and has scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss it with the chief financial officer.
In the past they have said service cuts may be necessary to balance the budget in this extremely difficult financial year.
Broadnax has said he will wait to hear from the rest of the city council about the budget before commenting on the mayor’s call for salary cuts.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.