Public Safety salary increases are still the priority for most Dallas City Council Members after a marathon budget amendment session Wednesday where very few spending cuts received support to make up for spending more money.
The session of “straw votes” on more than 100 amendments suggested by Council Members is not binding but it gives city staff direction on what to include in the document that must receive final approval in September.
Members are still proposing a police and fire pay raise of around 5 percent to improve police officer retention and recruiting.
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“I know I want to stand at these town hall meetings and tell folks that we have fixed that issue,” Council Member Adam McGough said.
Members who might typically oppose spending have said that citizens are telling them that more police is more important than a tax rate cut.
Despite soaring property values that will increase the burden on taxpayers, the City Council voted last week to eliminate the small tax rate cut City Manager T.C. Broadnax included in his $3.6 billion proposed 2019 budget.
“The recommended budget does include everything I believe we should be doing to move this city forward,” Broadnax said.
Council Members found very little to cut from that budget Wednesday while searching for more money to fund public safety raises.
Councilman Lee Kleinman proposed 55 amendments for a total of more than $31 million in budget cuts but he wanted the money to go toward tax rate reduction. Nearly all of his suggestions were rejected.
The budget already includes more money for Police and Firefighters than last year in the form of step increases and other money previously agreed to by the City Council.
Kleinman said it amounts to a 10% public safety pay increase.
Mayor Mike Rawlings also opposed additional public safety increases beyond what the City Managers budget already included. Rawlings supported a tax rate cut. But most Council Members disagreed.
“Even at the pay scale they’re giving us, the steps you are talking about, we’re still 18 to 20 percent below the market area. So we’re not gaining ground and we’re still losing officers,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata.
Several additional budget amendments to include the raises were still in the works after the meeting Wednesday night for consideration at the next Council Budget meeting in two weeks.