Some media is spreading news that the Dallas City Council is raising taxes in it’s new budget, which they will dissect Wednesday around the horseshoe.
But that is not entirely accurate, says Councilwoman Jennifer Gates: they are actually lowering our tax rate, by about a penny.
But you will pay more in taxes, because higher property values that will be born largely by middle class homeowners north of the Trinity, have made the city flush with about $66 million more in cash.
Some wanted to give it a bit back to the taxpayers. The City Manager proposed lowering the rate by 1.5 cents, Phillip Kingston proposed keeping the current tax rate, and Jennifer Gates proposed a two cent reduction. In the spirit of compromise, property owners get to pay one penny less with a tax rate of 78 cents per $100 valuation of your property. Which is one cent lower than what we were paying, 797 cents.
The problem is, the city is in dire need of money even with that extra $66 million. Most of the council, and I think perhaps most residents, want our police and firefighters to get raises and salaries that keep them in Dallas and protecting us.
But there are other issues, lots of issues: Robert Wilonsky has dissected the bad news.
This city, it seems, has not put aside enough for repairs and maintenance. There is not enough money to pay police and firefighters, repair streets, street lights, bridges and other infrastructure, and make Dallas a thriving, well-managed city that will attract brainpower. We do have a great parks and trail system, but Wilonsky says we are so short on cash we are “borrowing” Community Block Grant money to fix potholes. (And even that is just a band-aid.) Community Block Grants are funds that are earmarked to improve neighborhoods, increase property values and contributing more to the tax base.
We are really counting on a bond election next May to pay for fixing the streets.
“The bottom line is just to keep the streets from deteriorating further, we need half the bond program,” said Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan, now tasked with pothole patrol. “And that doesn’t include sidewalks, alleys, bridge repair or new traffic signals needed to replace the old ones. Out of a four-year bond program, I need $400 million just to keep streets even.”
That’s the same bond program that is going to ask for money for the Fair Park Foundation, Midtown, and more. You name it, it will be in the bond package. She needs half of it.
“Your tax bill will definitely be higher,” Jennifer Gates told me, “depending on your property value. And a lot of my district is seeing them go up.”
Is this just the price we pay to live in an Urban Nation?
That’s what Tom Brokaw called some U.S. cities at Tuesday night’s inaugural 2016-2017 Tate Lecture Series at SMU.
When we were young, he said to Doris Kearns Goodwin, we all wanted to go to Washington, D.C. Now Millennials don’t want to go to D.C. or get involved with politics.
Indeed, politicians are getting to be like plumbers: 60 to 65 in average age and a few years away from retirement.
And like plumbers and tradesmen, there are few to replace them.
Instead of heading for Washington, Millennials are seeking out fun cities with their own economies, such as Seattle. We can add San Francisco, LA, Denver, Austin and Nashville to that list. Dallas is in there somewhere, maybe not as desirable because we don’t have a shore-front, or the Rockies, or a huge lake. We’d be more desirable with a lower crime rate, better schools, better infrastructure. Some of our roads are as bad as a third world country’s. Move to Dallas, pretend it’s Costa Rica.
We do have great real estate, which may be one of this city’s biggest assets. But at what point will rising property values and taxes make it impossible for middle income residents to live here, turning an Urban Nation into an Urban Nightmare?