Unexpected Twist: Dallas Mayor for Fiscal Responsibility?

August 22, 2023
Andrew McVeigh
Local Budgets, Local Government, Property Tax, Spending, Tax Rate

In the intricate political landscape of Texas politics, more often than not those politicians that claim to be “Republicans” or “conservatives” advocate for fiscally responsible government, lower taxes, and less spending by government entities.

Dallas Changing their Playbook?

Yet, in an unexpected twist, it seems that this traditional alignment of policy and party is failing to hold true. Democrat Dallas Mayor, Eric L. Johnson, appears to be fighting the good fight on reigning in local government spending and fighting for lower property tax burdens for Dallas Residents. 

In a memorandum sent last week to the Dallas City Manager, T.C. Broadnax, Mayor Johnson asked that the 2023-2024 city budget be revised to be based on a “No New Revenue” (NNR) Property tax rate. 

The NNR Property tax rate is essentially a property tax rate that would allow local governments to collect the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year (if applied to the same properties that were taxed in the previous year). Calculating this rate assumes that if property values increase (they almost always do), then the tax rates should decrease to collect the same tax revenue. 

Mayor Johnson went on to discuss his desire for Dallas residents to receive meaningful tax relief. He additionally voiced his concerns about the City’s looming deficit and expressed his conviction that the city must “deliver essential services more efficiently and substantially reduce our spending starting now to secure our city’s financial future.”

Cowtown Spending Spree?

These developments are even more interesting considering that this new position of Mayor Johnson appears to be more fiscally conservative, and stands in stark contrast to, another major North Texas city: Fort Worth.

Under the leadership of Republican Mayor Mattie Parker, the city’s fiscal year 2024 annual budget is proposed to raise revenue, and raise taxes on property owners in Cowtown.

The proposed budget will:

“raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $65,264,597, which is a 9.2% increase from last year’s budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $21,759,142. 

The amounts above are based on the City’s recommended FY2024 tax rate of $0.6725 per $100 of assessed valuation.”

Even though the new tax rate is lower than the previous tax rate, the new rate is not low enough to qualify as an NNR Rate. Therefore, the  overall property tax burdens on Fort Worth Residents will still likely increase because of skyrocketing appraisals.

A Tale of Two Cities

Despite their similar geographic location and large populations, any outside on-looker would probably make an educated guess that the two cities and their respective Mayors would have policy positions in this arena flipped. Nonetheless, it seems that the Democrat Mayor Johnson of Dallas is taking a page out of the fiscal responsibility playbook and putting the Republican Mayor Parker of Fort Worth to shame. 

It just goes to show that political labels, perhaps, are not always as straightforward as they are made out to be. 

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