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Dallas City Council sets property tax rate ceiling; will vote in September

Dallas city leaders pushing for lowering tax rate enough to offset rising property values
Dallas city leaders pushing for lowering tax rate enough to offset rising property values 02:20

DALLAS ( — It is budget season in Dallas, and before city leaders decide where to spend taxpayer dollars, they'll have to decide on how much they'll pay. 

And the push to lower the property tax rate is taking a dramatic turn.

"It's the game that we say, 'We're lowering your tax rate,' and then we take a bow," shared District 12 Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn. "But the residents get a higher tax bill, because their property value has increased significantly."

Mendelsohn compares the promise of lowered property tax rates to a shell game, while Mayor Eric Johnson pulled out a toy ship—comparing Dallas' tax situation to the Titanic.

"This property tax situation is an iceberg," warned Mayor Johnson. "Because we can't continue to tax people the way that we've been taxing them and have them stay."

The majority of the council eventually adopted a tax rate ceiling of .7393 per $100 valuation. District 7 Councilmember Adam Bazaldua offered the amendment, arguing that the council can always vote to adopt a lower property tax rate when it votes on Sept. 20. But placing the ceiling higher than what was originally proposed gives the council options.

The mayor is pushing for a tax rate that would add 'no new revenue' to city coffers, even with rising property values.

"The other options out there—as well intentioned as they are—don't actually turn the ship around," argued Mayor Johnson. "They move the chairs on the ship around. I want to see the ship turned around. Tell the city manager, tell his staff, 'You guys are smart, you're creative, figure out a way to make all of our equity goals doable with this pile of money right here.'"

And while it's hardly politically risky to call for 'lowering' taxes, some at the horseshoe are warning the community about the consequences of those cuts.

"When you cut, we bleed in the southern sector," exclaimed District 4's Carolyn King Arnold. "When you cut, we die in the southern sector." 

The deputy mayor pro tem is also pushing for more education so that the community can understand that City of Dallas decisions only control roughly 28% of the typical tax bill. The school district, the county, even the community college system all add to that bottom line tax burden.

"We're at a critical juncture in the history of this city," warned Louis Darrouzet, CEO of the Metroplex Civic & Business Association.

Darrouzet addressed the council during the public comment portion of the meeting. He argued that higher taxes will hamper efforts to create more affordable housing in the city, and will make the city a less desirable place to live and do business. "Dallas has just started this trend and raising property tax revenue via a tax rate reduction trojan horse will only speed up the flight to the suburbs."

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