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Public safety, budget shortfalls top of mind at Dallas City Council meeting

Callers asked the city council to defund the police and reallocate the money towards community services.

DALLAS — Dallas City Council members are faced with increasing pressure from the community to re-imagine the city's budget and move funding out of the police department while also balancing a potential budget shortfall after declining sales tax revenue from coronavirus closures. 

Dallas has already furloughed hundreds of city workers through at least the end of July. In addition to citywide furloughs, Auditor Mark Swann sent a memo Tuesday night stating he has agreed to work with the city council to reduce his salary. 

“I will work with the City Council to reduce the salary of City Auditor to whatever compensation level the council believes is reasons in the current financial environment,” Swann said.  

During Wednesday morning's meeting, residents called in to express concerns regarding the city's budget shortfall and police reform suggestions. 

RELATED: Defunding the Dallas Police Department may mean fewer officers in city with rising crime

Community feedback

A large number of callers asked Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and the City Council to consider defunding the Dallas Police Department and reallocating that money to youth programs and community services. 

Some of those suggestions included better accessibility to abortion clinics, public transportation, paid internships for the youth, and the removal of Shingle Mountain.

Several callers also asked that funding that would normally be used towards the Police Department, instead to put toward arts programs for the youth, which could help combat crime in the city. 

Callers who voiced their support for keeping Dallas police fully funded said it's important to keep good police officers. 

One woman said she doesn't want to see policing budget cuts, because the department is still short-staffed. 

"Good police officers are the only thing that stands between good citizens and violence," another caller said. 

Budge outlook

Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich shared a 54-page presentation that provided an update on COVID-19 expenses, the current fiscal year, and upcoming biennial budgets. 

City Manager T.C. Broadnax will present his budget plan in August.

At the beginning of May, Broadnax announced 500 city employees would be furloughed through July 31 due to economic challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. 

RELATED: As coronavirus shutdowns sink city budgets, Dallas furloughs 500 employees

Reich said they may extend furloughs and are not sure if they will bring back workers before July 31.

In efforts to keep the public informed regarding funding to combat COVID-19, a new dashboard will be launched. The dashboard will be updated on a weekly basis.

Credit: City of Dallas
COVID-19 funding dashboard

Suggested steps

Last week, Mayor Eric Johnson issued a memo to City Manager T.C. Broadnax, saying "all options should be on the table" when it comes to addressing budget shortfalls. 

In the memo, Johnson asked Broadnax to consider “defunding” the bureaucracy to the greatest extent possible. 

These suggestions included the following:

  • Reducing executive compensation 
  • Eliminate expenditures on state lobbyist contracts for the 87th Legislature
  • Evaluate functions classified under Management Services
  • Support the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities recommendations

On Tuesday evening, Johnson posted another memo announcing that Swann has agreed to work with the city council to reduce his salary. 

In the memo, Swann said he prefers any compensation reduction to consider a combination of furlough days along with an annual salary reduction to achieve the desires personnel cost-saving objective.

The auditor’s office has also eliminated two of the highest-paid positions in efforts of achieving the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

"These sacrifices aren’t easy, but I am pleased one of our council-appointed officers understands that our residents are hurting and that their needs come first," Johnson said. 

During Wednesday's briefing, the public was able to view suggestions that were submitted by a few city council members in letters they recently sent to the city manager. 

Credit: City of Dallas
Presentation slide regarding public safety in Dallas.
Credit: City of Dallas
Reallocating public safety funding proposal

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