Creating a safer city through the Dallas budget
More work is needed, but the proposed budget is off to a strong start in addressing my Back to Basics agenda
The following was adapted from my email newsletter. To sign up, visit mayorofdallas.org.
The single most important document to come out of City Hall this year was the police chief’s violent crime reduction plan. That’s because safety is the foundation of everything else the city does.
But the annual budget, which reflects how your tax dollars — your investment in Dallas — will be spent, is a close second.
And budget season is officially here.
On Saturday, the city manager unveiled his proposed Fiscal Year 2021–2022 budget. On Tuesday, city staff briefed the city council on the proposal.
For the next month, we will pore over the nearly 800-page proposed budget, listen to your feedback, and discuss and propose changes.
Thankfully, this budget season appears to be off to a stronger start this year. The city manager proposed a budget that addresses my Back to Basics agenda. The budget provides a much-needed staffing boost for the 911 call center, funds future changes to sanitation services and permitting, cuts the property tax rate, and increases strategic infrastructure spending.
With federal funds, the city can further address basic needs and Build for the Future. Currently, the budget calls for the city to expand broadband and WiFi access, to rapidly rehouse people experiencing homelessness, and to boost Dallas Fire-Rescue’s training and equipment needs.
And, most importantly, the budget calls for growing the police department again.
That’s huge. Last year, the city council voted for a budget that called for shrinking the department by 110 officers over two years.
The newly proposed budget, per my request, would instead allow the city to hire 250 police officers during the next fiscal year with another 250 new hires planned for the following fiscal year. This plan would add a net of about 90 police officers over the next two fiscal years. Other efficiency measures in the budget could free up more officers, too — as long as those initiatives are implemented correctly.
The number of officers is also affected by attrition. And the budget would give out market-rate pay increases for first responders — a key to retaining veteran police officers.
As you know, I voted against the current fiscal year’s budget that shrank the department and recently requested that the city manager pay market-rate first responder salaries and hire 275 officers during the upcoming fiscal year.
More officers are clearly needed. Police Chief Eddie Garcia’s violent crime reduction plan has demonstrated early signs of success. To sustain and build upon that success, the chief needs more resources. Public safety must come first, and this budget presents a real opportunity to make Dallas a safer city.
Once the budget is approved, implementation and accountability will be key. That’s why reports such as the monthly public safety progress report are so important.
The full public safety priorities report for July is below. The numbers reflect where the city stood as of July 31. The parentheses show the change from last month’s report. Remember, the crime statistics had reset on January 1 and reflect the calendar year, not the fiscal year. Other numbers reflect the fiscal year, which began October 1, 2020.
Task Force on Safe Communities implementation
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Priority Improvement Zones: 1,088 (+197)
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the Digital Divide and Strategic Streetlighting Plan: 100 (No change)
Number of new streetlights installed as part of the environmental improvements for crime prevention plan: 532 (No change)
Number of blighted properties remediated by Neighborhood Nuisance Abatement: 30,542 (+3,636)
Number of blighted properties remediated by the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, utilizing Code Compliance personnel within Risk Terrain Area: 1,522 (+250)
Number of violence interrupters funded by the City of Dallas: 1 organization with an 11-member team (No change).
Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides year‐to‐date: 122 (+20)
Murder victims by race/ethnicity
Black: 74 (+15)
Hispanic: 32 (+4)
White: 14 (+2)
Other/unknown: 2 (-1)
Murders by City Council district
District 1: 6 (No change)
District 2: 9 (No change)
District 3: 12 (+1)
District 4: 13 (+3)
District 5: 7 (No change)
District 6: 12 (+3)
District 7: 23 (+6)
District 8: 17 (+2)
District 9: 1 (No change)
District 10: 13 (+4)
District 11: 2 (No change)
District 12: 1 (No change)
District 13: 2 (No change)
District 14: 4 (+1)
(For your reference, here is a map of City Council districts. You can also find your representatives here).
Total number of murders and non‐negligent homicides during the current year in which no arrest has been made: 45 (+4)
Number of 911 call takers on staff: 88 (+4)
Average 911 call holding time, in minutes and seconds: 16 seconds (-2 seconds)
Police civilianization, hiring, and overtime
Total amount of overtime funding expended to date in the current fiscal year: $27.9 million (+$2.9 million)
Total Dallas Police Department overtime budget allocated for the current fiscal year: $17.3 million (No change)
Total number of jobs transitioned from sworn officers to non‐sworn employees as part of KPMG civilianization plan: 69 (+17)
Total number of police officers and trainees hired year‐to‐date: 117 (+40)
Total number of police officers and trainees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 165 (+21)
Total number of police department civilian employees hired: 175 (+17)
Total number of police department civilian employees who have resigned, retired, or have been terminated: 84 (+6)
Police response times
Median police response times to priority 1 calls: 6 minutes, 3 seconds (+8 seconds)
Percentage of priority 1 calls receiving a response in under 8 minutes: 51.41% (-4.26%)
Median police response times to priority 2 calls: 16 minutes, 47 seconds (+2 minutes, 39 seconds)
As you can see, some progress has been made on key initiatives. But the police department is still struggling to meet their response time goals. That’s a major part of why police overtime funding (boosted appropriately in the proposed budget for next fiscal year) is so far over budget this year.
Now is not the time to let up on efforts to make Dallas a safer city. Stay tuned as the budget talks progress. City councilmembers will likely propose some amendments that will hopefully better align the budget with your needs. There is, after all, still much to discuss about how City Hall can best get Back to Basics and Build for the Future. The devil is often in the details.
It’s time for you to get in on this process. Take part in a budget town hall meeting and tell your city councilmember about your priorities. You can also reply to this email to share your feedback!
Stay tuned for more updates. Have a great week, stay safe, and stay healthy.