Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s plan to reduce salaries of top city employees to divert money to other purposes was soundly rejected Wednesday in straw votes by the city council.
The mayor’s proposed amendments were taken up first among 84 to be considered Wednesday.
“We’re in a recession. We’re in a pandemic right now. So, if you look at what the private sector is doing across the board, they are laying people off, they are firing people,” Johnson said.
The mayor wanted reductions starting with civilian employees earning more than $60,000 a year on a sliding scale from 1% for the lowest-paid people to 25% reductions for those making over $250,000 a year.
With $6.5 million from the reductions, the mayor offered three options for the money. His first choice was putting 50 additional police officers on the street by hiring 50 civilians to replace the officers on inside jobs. Choice two was additional street maintenance and the third choice was a property tax rate reduction.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax is paid $406,850. He said nothing in public about the mayor’s pay cut request. City council members did the talking about why they opposed Johnson’s suggestion.
Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough said the mayor was on target with uses for the money, but not with the source.
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“I have struggled with the amount of cuts at the top end of this,” McGough said.
Council Member Cara Mendelsohn agreed with the need for more public safety but disagreed about cutting civilian employee salaries.
“When you look at city managers even across Texas, we’re not paying our city manager the most of every city manager,” Mendelsohn said.
Council Member Jennifer Gates said professionals in the city's workforce are paid less than the private sector.
“We’ve had a challenging time to be able to retain and recruit those,” Gates said.
The vote against Johnson on the first two options for that money was 13 to 1.
Council Member Lee Kleinman joined Johnson supporting the tax rate cut option but all the others said no.
Kleinman offered 40 budget amendments of his own. As discussion on budget amendments stretched into Wednesday evening, Kleinman had found little support for his budget changes.
“We should just say, we will never cut a salary at the City of Dallas for anyone at any time, under any circumstances, because the entire world is cutting salaries right now,” Johnson said.
The City of Dallas has furloughed hundreds of workers from libraries and recreation centers that were closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Broadnax has said his proposed spending plan is an austerity budget in hard times that still provides services residents demand.
A final vote on the new budget is set for Sept. 23.