Dallas Police and Firefighter Pension Board members passed a measure Thursday to ask the Dallas City Council to take 1/8 of a cent sales tax from DART and put it into a dedicated public safety fund.
City Councilman Scott Griggs says Dallas taxpayers are subsidizing transportation costs in surrounding cities, giving them an unfair advantage.
"That's why the suburbs can offer much more competitive salaries to police and firefighters than the city of Dallas,” Griggs said.
The roughly $35 million a year the fund would get, Griggs says, coupled with the legislative plan set to go to the house floor, would solve the pension shortfall problem.
"The public safety fund would take care of the pension crisis number one. And then number two, would help us offer competitive salaries to police and firefighters,” Griggs said. “A big point is, the voters should have a decision. This is taxpayer money."
But another councilmember on the pension board, Jennifer Staubach-Gates, said the request ignores previous commitments.
“It's not like I could just go and take that eighth of a cent, there's bond covenants related to that amount, there could be 13 years before you realized any revenue shift before could even take place. So it's more empty promises,” Staubach-Gates said.
DART says a $35-$40 million cut in its half-billion dollar operations budget would have a significant impact, affecting 20,000 to 25,000 Dallas residents a day.
"We're not even sure this is even actually legal,” said DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. "This is still a significant threat to DART, to our customers, to all of our customers in all 13 cities, but particularly those customers in the city of Dallas who would see service cuts if this were to be successful.”
Morgan said DART wasn’t resorting to scare tactics, but just being honest about the potential for reduced service.
Meanwhile, retired pensioners like Joel Lavender can only watch and wonder what happens next.
"The next generation of firefighters and police officers are watching to see how the city handles this, because they know they are next,” Lavender said. “And who wants to come to a city that treats its retirees like dirt?”