The city of Dallas has been a beacon of opportunity and growth for decades. However, a pressing issue has been stirring debates around dinner tables and City Hall meetings: the ever-increasing homeowner tax bill. It’s a concern that transcends political lines, and the solution to this problem lies at the intersection of rising property appraisals, growing expenses, and the demands of our residents.
Homeowners throughout Dallas have watched their tax bills rise steadily over the years. Let’s not skirt around the truth: rising property appraisals and the inability of the Texas Legislature to fully fund Texas public schools are the primary culprits behind the steep uptick in homeowners’ tax bills.
During the city of Dallas budget discussions, the Dallas City Council faces the challenge of balancing two competing objectives: lowering the overall homeowners’ tax bill, and providing better services to Dallas homeowners.
Dallas is grappling with aging infrastructure, pothole-ridden streets in desperate need of repair, and the vital need to pay our first responders and city staff living wages. Moreover, we must ensure that our parks remain safe and clean, maintain code officers to guarantee property upkeep, and keep our libraries open and functioning. Unfortunately, the costs associated with these services have been on an upward trajectory, and as a responsible council, we have a duty to address these pressing needs.
Since 2019, the City Council has made a concerted effort to alleviate the financial burden on homeowners. Last year, this commitment resulted in a historic low: a reduction of 2.75 cents in our tax rate and a senior/disabled homestead exemption of $115,500. While these were significant steps in the right direction, we must continue to explore avenues for balancing our budget without unduly burdening our residents.
Recent discussions among the council, staff and residents are occurring around the proposed budget and tax rate. Some view it as a political stunt, while others consider it a necessary step toward fiscal responsibility. Cutting taxes by 5.43 cents would give the average homeowner in my District 9, where the average home value is $500,000, close to a $271.50 per year tax break based on the no new revenue rate, while cutting the city budget by more than $106 million. In many departments, this would set them back tremendously, and we must consider the consequences of cutting back or eliminating essential services our residents depend on before slashing budgets.
I am supporting a 1-cent to 2-cent decrease in the tax rate in this budget. Here’s why.
First, I have listened to my constituents and believe that this reduction in the tax rate is reasonable and won’t slash department budgets that have been modernizing to move Dallas forward. It will maintain expected city services such as park maintenance and street repairs.
Second, we need to review each department for efficiency and effectiveness. We should streamline processes, eliminate never-to-be-funded positions, and optimize resource allocation.
Dallas faces a fiscal problem that cannot be resolved through political posturing or shortsighted budget cuts. We must find a way to reconcile the rising tax bills with the increasing demands and costs of serving our residents.
We are at a point for the council to seek a thoughtful and fiscally responsible approach, a commitment to long-term sustainability and a recognition that providing quality services comes at a cost. It’s time for our city to come together and find common ground in pursuing a smart budget that serves the best interests of all Dallas residents.
Paula Blackmon represents District 9 on the Dallas City Council. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.