Dallas homeowners to see biggest tax rate reduction in decades under budget proposal

A nearly 3-cent decrease in the property tax rate, financial bonuses for police officers who delay retirement and beefed-up responses to homeless encampments, loose dogs and contaminated properties are on the table for Dallas if a budget proposal released Friday is adopted.

City Manager TC Broadnax is recommending a $4.51 billion budget for the next fiscal year, $160 million more than the spending plan approved last year by the City Council, as Dallas saw record revenue from sales and property taxes.

Both revenue sources make up nearly 80% of the city’s general fund, which finances most of the day-to-day operations of the city.

Broadnax’s proposal for the latest annual budget also calls for increases in rates and fees residents pay for sanitation, storm drainage and water utility services to keep up with demand. The starting salaries for city employees would increase from $15 an hour to around $18 an hour under the proposal.

This move comes as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator, which the city uses to gauge adequate pay for employees and contractors, indicated earlier this year that a single adult has to earn at least $17.03 an hour to make a living wage in the Dallas metro area. It was $15 an hour the year before.

The rate this year shoots up to more than $30 for single parents to make a living wage in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The city published an overview of Broadnax’s budget proposal Friday with a summary of recommended investments. The full budget proposal, which would include funding recommendations for each city department, is set to be released Saturday.

The City Council will receive its first public briefing of Broadnax’s spending plan on Tuesday.

Broadnax said many of his budget recommendations stemmed from long-running concerns from residents who say they want the city to do more to give homeowners some relief from rising cost-of-living expenses, help people living unsheltered in parks or near highways, and address environmental impacts caused by industrial sites in or near communities of color.

Tax rate reduction

Among Broadnax’s recommendations to the council is to reduce the property tax rate to 74.58 cents per $100 valuation, which would be a 2.75 cent drop from the current rate.

For a home valued at $350,000 the homeowner would be paying $2,088 in city property taxes, a $77 decrease from the previous rate. That tally takes into account the standard 20% homestead exemption and assumes the home value stayed the same.

But with appraisals rising throughout North Texas, some property owners could still pay more despite the lower rate.

Still, the 2.75-cent decrease is the most in at least 37 years, and the last time Dallas’ tax rate was around 74 cents was in 2010.

“We believe that that is significant and worthy given the times we’re in, particularly given the property tax value growth that people have experienced,” Broadnax said.

Total property values ​​in Dallas increased 15% since last year, going from $155.9 billion in 2021 to $179.4 billion in 2022. Of the $23.5 billion difference, $3.3 billion is from new construction and the rest from reappraisals, according to the city.

At the current rate of 77.3 cents per $100, Dallas has one of the highest property tax rates in the state.

In 2021, Houston, San Antonio and Austin all had property tax rates under 57 cents per $100 of valuation. Among major Texas cities, only El Paso, at 90.7 cents per $100 valuation, has a higher tax rate than Dallas.

El Paso’s latest proposed budget, which was announced this week, has a 4.49-cent decrease in that city’s tax rate.

The Dallas City Council in June also approved an 8% increase in the amount homeowners with disabilities or over 65 can exclude from their property tax valuation to $115,500 from the current $107,000 exemption.

Police and fire

Dallas’ public safety department, police and fire, typically receives the bulk of general fund money and is poised to get the lion’s share of $1.7 billion general fund in the latest spending plan.

This comes as the city tries to slow an uptick in violent crime after seeing a reduction last year with a $566 million police department budget. Meanwhile the head of Dallas’ largest fire fighters association has been critical of city management, citing broken down vehicles and equipment, pay issues and other barriers to effectively doing their jobs.

Broadnax said Dallas plans to stick with its commitment made last year to hire 500 new police officers by the end of September 2023. The city planned to commit $9.6 million toward that initiative, which includes hiring 250 new officers starting this October.

Dallas council approves $4.35 billion budget that boosts money for police and city services

But police department data as of Friday shows the city could fall short of its goal of hiring 250 officers this year. The department has close to 3,100 officers.

From October, the beginning of the current fiscal year, and through July, the city has hired 151 officers. But the department also lost 191 in the same period.

Broadnax said he is proposing the city spend $4 million on financial incentives to entice officers on the verge of retirement to stay for at least one more year. He said he hopes at least 30 officers agree to stick around.

The city plans to start hiring paramedics who don’t have to be trained to be firefighters, Broadnax said. He said the latest budget calls for devoting six more ambulances to address emergency calls during peak hours to reduce response times.

Broadnax said he is proposing that the city spend $18 million to focus on ambulances and other fire department equipment. He is also recommending that $1.5 million be spent to create a nine-member team within the department dedicated to monitoring and inspecting venues in the city’s entertainment districts.

Other spending

As for other highlights, the proposed budget seeks to:

  • $157 million on improving city infrastructure, including $6.3 million to improve sidewalks, $4.4 million in repairs to bridges and $2 million to clean up alleys.
  • $2 million to remove trees infected by emerald ash borer beetles and slow the spread of the invasive insects that eat ash trees.
  • $1.5 million to develop a program to clean up city properties with hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.
  • Expand the development services office to address months-long delays in the city issuing residential and commercial building permits, including creating a team dedicated to focusing on approving single and multifamily housing projects.
  • $2.5 million to create a Homeless Action Response Team, to more quickly address homeless encampments.
  • Increase library hours in at least nine branches around the city that lack internet access and other resources.
  • Hire more staff in the code enforcement department dedicated to apartment inspections and responding to calls about loose dogs.
  • $300,000 to analyze how to bring at least 20 city-owned buildings up to standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • $70 million for new vehicles.
  • $1.5 million toward street safety improvements as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan, such as speed bumps.
  • Hire new employees who would be in charge of overseeing how plans seeking to address traffic deaths and racial disparities are implemented.

Mayor Eric Johnson, who listed public safety initiatives among his top funding requests to Broadnax last month, said he is in favor of Broadnax’s proposed budget and that he believes it focuses “on the issues that are most important to our residents.”

“I have been unequivocal that the top two priorities for this year’s budget should be public safety and tax relief for our city’s homeowners, renters, and businesses,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am pleased that the Dallas City Council will now have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to these same priorities by investing in making our neighborhoods safer while also delivering the largest single-year tax-rate reduction in modern Dallas history.”

Dallas City Manager TC Broadnax will keep his job for now

The proposed budget’s focus differed from what residents told the city they wanted in an annual survey.

The more than 1,200 respondents wanted to see increased funding for art and culture programs, social services, and repairs to streets, sidewalks and alleys.

They wanted to see less money go to responding to code violations, municipal court services and police.

The city advertised the survey through the city’s blog and social media accounts in English and Spanish. Responses to the English language online version of the survey made up 96% of the responses, city data shows. The city only got 10 surveys back in Spanish, four were from paper copies from libraries and recreation centers.

The public will have a chance to weigh in via in-person and virtual town hall events that are scheduled to run from Aug. 11 to Aug. 25.

The City Council can suggest and approve amendments to Broadnax’s budget proposal before adopting a final plan by the end of September. The next fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

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