The Dallas City Council is facing a difficult question: what price do you put on public safety?
The city's police force is stretched thin. More money could help hire more recruits. But the budget calls for cutting taxes, which have gone up sharply with soaring property values.
The council on Tuesday tried to find an agreement on both issues.
As homeowners in Dallas continue to see their property taxes go up year after year, the city is considering giving the owner of a $275,000 home a $34 break next year. But some say citizens would rather use that money to improve public safety.
Finding men and women who are willing to protect and serve in Dallas is so difficult that the city is not even planning on making any headway next year.
Dallas CFO Elizabeth Reich said the budget includes the resources to hire 255 police officers next year. That means only six additional officers in the entire budget.
To get more on the streets, Councilman Scott Griggs proposed a 5 percent pay raise that would equal to $20 million more, the same amount the city is proposing to cut from property taxes.
“I know in last 4-5 years we've lost about 1,000 officers,” he said. “I know they are going from call to call in North Oak Cliff and other areas we've seen a spike in violent crime.”
Griggs believes the money for the pay raise can be found within the city's $3.5 billion budget.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings made it clear that he does not support higher taxes.
“I'm not going to support, and I don't think we as a council should try to take and take and take from our property owners,” he said. “Just because it's there, we think we can take it.”
The mayor had this to say about the proposed 5 percent across the board pay raise for police and fire.
“Doing across the board pay raises is like taking a chain saw to heart surgery,” he said. “You can't just throw money against the issue. You have to understand where the issues are.”
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata believes the statement sends the wrong message.
“He's the best recruiter for every city around Dallas,” Mata said. “Because every time he says something like that, I'm going to lose officers. And the fire department will lose firefighters. Comments like that tell police and fire that you don't care.”
The starting pay for police in Dallas is $51,000. The city says the average starting pay in the region is $59,000.
The city council will vote on a budget next month.