The starting pay for Dallas police officers and firefighters is going up and current first responders will also get a raise after the Dallas City Council approved the new salaries on Wednesday.
A large majority of the council signed off on the increase after complaints the police department has had trouble keeping and hiring officers because of a pay scale that was not competitive. Starting pay for police and fire now bumps from $51,000 to $60,000, putting Dallas ahead of the regional average of $59,752.
Mayor Mike Rawlings did not get any guarantees that the significant increase in starting pay will translate into more officers next year.
"I would love you guys to give me one thing, and that is to tell the citizens that we're going to make progress on this issue,” Rawlings said.
But Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said the higher pay will help.
“I don't want anyone to believe there is a silver bullet answer to recruiting, because there isn't. What we know is the individuals who want to come in law enforcement now are fewer than there were years ago. We're wanting to make our department as attractive as it can be for people who want to come into law enforcement,” Hall said.
Councilman Adam McGough came up with the compromise.
“We've never been able to say that in Dallas, now we have a recruiting tool that will help not just in Dallas about around the country,” McGough said.
But not everyone was on board.
“Anybody that has a child knows when you give into a tantrum, you're just enabling another tantrum,” said councilman Lee Kleinman.
The mayor, Kleinman and councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates all voted against the pay increase.
“I won't be supporting either of these because it puts the burden on the taxpayers and upsets a process we have for meet and confer,” Kleinman said.
The fire department has also been impacted by firefighters leaving for higher paying cities after Dallas invested in training them. The department has lost 449 firefighter paramedics in three years.
“I don't know this will stem the tide, I think this will slow it down,” Chief David Coatney said.
The city council can still tout a reduction in the tax rate with the raises, but due to rising property values the owner of a $275,000 home will see their tax bill rise about $84 compared with last year.