The Dallas City Council unanimously approved a $4.75 billion budget Wednesday, a near-record spending plan that lowers the property tax rate, raises residential trash and water service fees, and adds more funding for the police and fire departments.
It’s the first time since 2019 that all 15 council members voted in favor of the budget, which will take effect Oct. 1. Mayor Eric Johnson credited the broad support to, among other things, the tax rate decrease and plans to put more money into initiatives aimed at public safety, homelessness, and sidewalk and other infrastructure improvements. Several initiatives that Johnson personally asked for were included in the budget.
“Mr. Manager, this is the best budget I have seen since I’ve been mayor of the city,” Johnson said to City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “That’s not to say that the budget is perfect. There is no perfect budget.”
The budget is $400 million larger than the one approved last fall, buoyed in part by higher revenue from sales and property taxes.
The new budget previously was listed by the city as coming in at $4.51 billion, but Janette Weedon, Dallas budget and management services director, told The Dallas Morning News that didn’t factor in the inclusion of an extra roughly $6 million in employee’s retirement fund money and $241 million more for internal service and other funds.
The council approved several amendments to the initial budget recommended by Broadnax in August, much of involving the shifting of money that officials had planned to set aside into a fund for future pension-related expenses. The amendments included paying for plans to repair and renovate Dallas Fire-Rescue buildings and buy new equipment, hire more community prosecutors, and boost the new Inspector General division from 10 workers to 16.
The council set the property tax rate at 74.58 cents per $100 valuation, a 2.75 cent drop from the current rate. But with appraisals rising throughout North Texas, most property owners will still pay more.
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. Dallas’ property tax rate is among the highest of major cities in the state.
Council member Cara Mendelsohn said that while she thought the budget had “some big wins,” she was concerned the property tax rate wasn’t lower. A budget amendment she proposed last week to shift $4.4 million from the new pension stabilization fund to lower the tax rate to 74.33 cents was voted down.
“We have an alarming growth of city expenses, deferred maintenance, a looming structural deficit, reserves are being depleted,” she said. “It’s the end of our large fiscal cash infusions, property values are maxed out, and we still haven’t restored city services to pre-COVID levels for things like libraries.”
The minimum wage for city workers is increasing from $15.50 an hour to $18 in the new budget.
Monthly residential sanitation fees are estimated to rise by $1.51 from the current budget, increasing the average residential sanitation bill to $35.81. The jump is being driven by rising costs for gas and roll carts and the minimum-wage hike.
Storm drainage fees will increase by 40 cents to $9.22 on an average monthly bill.
Water and wastewater service fees will go up $3.25 to an average rate of $70.19 a month. The higher fees are to cover higher staff costs, improvements to department equipment, and costs related to connecting the city’s water system to Lake Palestine, which is 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
Other budget highlights include:
— Hiring 250 new police officers.
— Enlarging the development services office to address monthslong delays in issuing residential and commercial building permits. The expansion will include creating a team dedicated approving single and multifamily housing projects.
— Creating a Homeless Action Response Team, to more quickly address homeless encampments.
— Expanding library hours at 16 branches around the city that lack internet access and other resources from five days a week to six.
— Hiring more code enforcement staff for apartment inspections and more animal services workers to respond to calls about loose dogs.
— Dedicating $1.5 million for street safety improvements, such as speed bumps, as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan.
— Hiring new employees to oversee how plans seeking to address traffic deaths and racial disparities are implemented.
Also on Wednesday:
— The council approved nearly $4.2 million in financial incentives for developers led by Dallas-based Edwin Cabaniss to revive the Longhorn Ballroom just south of downtown. The estimated $14.3 million plan is expected to turn the vacant historic music venue and dance hall into a multi-use entertainment center. The iconic music venue was built in 1950 but has been in disrepair since the 1990s. Construction is to begin next month and wrap up in June 2026.
— The council rejected a proposal to allow developers to build warehouses and single- and multi-family homes on vacant land near the Capella Park neighborhood in southwest Dallas, following a previous recommendation from the City Plan Commission. The council heard from around 40 people who opposed the development, citing the impact of increased industrial vehicle traffic and other things on their neighborhood of mostly single-family homes. The project is backed by Bishop T.D. Jakes, whose megachurch The Potter’s House sits about 3 miles north of the 175 acre site.