By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The Dallas City Council unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Budget of $3.8 billion at its Sept. 18 City Council briefing. It was the first time since 2014 the council voted unanimously, 15-0, in favor of approving the budget.
“I want to congratulate everyone here for getting to this final step and passing this budget,” Mayor Eric Johnson said. “We’ve had four workshops on the budget, and we have heard from citizens across numerous town halls of which several I was able to attend. We have had three public hearings on the budget, and we have asked a lot of questions and have heard several amendments to this budget. I hope that today we approve a budget that reflects our commitment to public safety, but also continues much-needed human and social programs and demonstrates our fiscal restraint by not increasing our property tax rate by holding steady.”
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax also thanked the community for their involvement at the town hall meetings regarding the budget.
“I want to thank the community for showing up to the 41-plus community meetings regarding the budget,” Broadnax said. “There was great insight given and many more needs addressed by the community.”
A large portion of the budget will go toward public safety and first responders. About $162 million will go toward the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, which is an increase of $5.2 million from last year.
The fiscal year will begin Oct. 1.
The City Council also heard a briefing on the Dallas 2020 census.
“Ensuring a full count is vital to our city,” Johnson said. “We will lose $1600 every year per person for every person we don’t count. If you add that up, an undercount will cost us millions of dollars in federal funding for roads, schools and health care.”
Kimberly Bizor Tolbert, chief of staff for the city of Dallas, stressed the importance of getting the census accurate.
“We know that we have to get the census right,” Tolbert said. “There is no room for us to not put the effort in place to ensure that every single residence in this community is counted. Our census team is working hard, and we made a lot of good progress in this last year, and we are working with the mayor’s Complete Count Committee and really building those important partnerships that will really help us make this census effort successful.”
Brett Wilkinson, managing director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Government Affairs for the city of Dallas, said the U.S. Constitution mandates a census count must be held every 10 years.
“Those dollars have direct impact on planning for schools, transportation, health programs and other community needs,” Wilkinson explained. “The census information is used to determine how billions and billions of dollars of federal funding are distributed to states and local governments every year. Those dollars are used to make very important decisions. Census inform-ation is not just used by governmental agencies but also used by the private sector in making important business decisions. Census data is also used for reapportionment to draw legislative districts as well as local city council districts.”
The 2020 census will be the first time that residents may respond online or on the phone in 12 different languages.
“It is estimated that Texas stands to gain more than any other state during the 2020 census, and it estimates that we will pick up at least three new seats in the U.S. House,” Wilkinson said.
In March of 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau sends out information to residents regarding the census to fill out information, and in December 2020 the apportionment counts are delivered to the president. On March 31, redistricting counts are delivered to the states.
Dallas is the third largest city in Texas. In 2020, the city is estimated to have 1.39 million residents.
“Texas stands to lose more federal funding from an undercount in 2020 than any other state,” Wilkinson said. “Federal funds lost by Texas due to a census undercount are redistributed to other states. For example, for each federal dollar that Texas gives up, California gets an extra 13 cents.”
In order to raise awareness about census 2020, the Dallas mayor has a Complete Count Committee.
Elizabeth Saab, external relations manager for the city of Dallas, talked about the efforts of the CCC.
“The CCC fundraising committee has been tasked to raise funds to support the city of Dallas outreach efforts for the census,” Saab said. “The fundraising committee is working to raise private dollars from nonprofits and private corporations for outreach efforts and fundraising dollars will be used for printing, supplies, media buys, large-scale awareness opportunities and weekend-long census 2020 online participation events across the city of Dallas.”
The CCC committee also includes a person who is in charge of hard-to-count residents, which council member Casey Thomas of District 3 chairs.
Saab explained what “hard to count” means.
“Hard to count includes residents who are less likely to fill out the census,” Saab said. “They are hard to locate, hard to contact, hard to interview or hard to convince to fill out the census.
The city of Dallas’ hard-to-count populations include: immigrants, low-income households, people of color, people who move frequently and young children.
“Counting all hard-to-count residents is critical to making census 2020 successful for the city of Dallas,” Saab said. “There are 201 hard-to-count tracts inside or crossing into the city of Dallas with an estimated 979,994 people living in those tracts.”
Another outreach effort for the census that the city of Dallas is doing is partnership.
“Partners in this effort are trusted voices who have the ability to mobilize their resources for effective outreach within their respective communities,” Saab said. “This includes representatives from the media, government agencies, apartment associations, health care, community advocates and the faith community, among others.”
Saab said the next steps for the CCC subcommittees include continuing to convene monthly to work their outreach strategies and collaborate on action items.
“The CCC has formed an African American consort-ium and a Hispanic/Latino consortium to develop targeted outreach strategies to those communities,” Saab said. “The CCC is also working with the Census Bureau Partnership Special-ists to identify opportunities for joint outreach effort.”
Updates on the Dallas census can be found at http://www.dallascensus.com.