On August 12th, I attended my first ever Dallas City Council Budget Town Hall Meeting. This was a joint meeting organized for Angela Hunt’s District 14 and Sheffie Kadane’s District 9 constituents. As you can imagine, the meeting room at St. Thomas Aquinas church was overflowing with Dallas residents eager to hear from their council members, to ask questions, and to voice their opinions.
Mayor Leppert made a few introductory remarks, reiterating his opinion that raising taxes at this particular time will result in Dallas’s losing its competitive edge; that we have to look long term at the bigger picture of economic development.
One of his points actually makes the argument for a fully-functioning Central Library. He spoke about the importance of “nurturing” new and small businesses in Dallas as part of the city’s economic development plans. I have also read that new business startups in general are on the rise because people who can’t find work are starting their own businesses in order to earn a living.
Where does a new/small business owner in Dallas go to learn about starting and operating a small business (such as home-based genealogy research, graphics/photo restoration, or writing and publishing)? How does he/she find financing advice, utilize expensive research sources and tools, or learn how to market and advertise? They go to floors 3 through 8 of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. The City Budget as proposed will restrict access to this vital small business resource at a time when people need it the most.
At the Budget Town Hall, Assistant City Manager A. C. Gonzalez spent a few minutes reviewing the proposed new budget, but the majority of the meeting was devoted to remarks from audience members and Q&A with Angela and Sheffie. Although Mayor Leppert spoke out against a tax increase, Council members Hunt and Kadane were more responsive to those in attendance who brought up the possibility of a tax increase. Angela provided the following stats – Dallas’s current residential tax rate is 74.79 cents per hundred dollars of property valuation. Each 1 cent increase in the tax rate would raise $8 million dollars in revenue.
At the end of the meeting, Angela and Sheffie polled the audience on their willingness to accept a tax increase. The vote of hands appeared to be 2/3 for an increase and 1/3 opposed. Quite a positive response, I think.
The City Manager and City Council have spent the last few years working to reduce the expenses side of the ledger. I believe that for the coming budget year they should look at the revenue side.