Tennell Atkins   Dallas City Council
Tennell Atkins Dallas City Council

The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas City Council voted 12-1 in favor of authorizing an increase in the homestead property tax exemption for persons who are disabled or 65 or older from $90,000 to $100,000 for the 2019 tax year, fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The original motion the city manager gave the council, which would have been equal to indexing it to inflation over the last two years cumulatively, called for an increase from $90,000 to $94,100. But, after receiving recommendations from City Council, Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates of District 13, who led this discussion, said the amendments she received from the council supported increasing the exemption to $100,000.

Councilman Kevin Felder of District 7 opposed the increase and voted against it due to budget concerns.

“Even though I like to see disabled and elderly receive more exemptions, with the state Legislature putting a cap on revenue that we are going to receive back, I’m concerned about that,” Felder said. “We have a looming budget crisis coming up.”

According to Elizabeth Reich, chief financial officer for the city of Dallas, raising this from what the policy called for – which was just inflating it, according to the CPI, to $100,000 – results in $3.4 million of total lost revenue, of which $2.5 million is lost revenue to the general fund.

Felder said this is a concern for him.

“When we get down to it, although I won’t be here, I still am a citizen and I still will be active and engaged,” he said. “My concern is that the people that are marginalized will bear the brunt of this, so I cannot support this, and we cannot afford this because of what is coming, because of the state Legislature, which has put a three and a half percent cap on what we are going to get back from the state, and so I can’t do it. I will not be supportive.”

Council member Omar Narvaez of District 6 was among those who were supportive of this measure.

“I think this is an excellent amendment from what was requested,” he expressed. “Right now, the hardship that is being experienced by senior citizens, especially in low income areas like West Dallas and South Dallas, where folks are being forced to decide to sell their homes for amounts they cannot afford. They cannot afford another home and many of these senior citizens have lived in their homes their entire lives, or their families have lived in those homes longer, and they cannot just afford what’s they’re being hit with at this time, so I think this is a good amendment. Our senior citizens deserve a little bit of relief.”

Council member Tennell Atkins of District 8 agreed.

“It’s a no-brainer, our seniors deserve this,” Atkins said. “We talk about gentrification, we talk about seniors that have been waiting a long, long time, so they deserve this.”

Reich said the exemption was originally set in 1986 at $50,000 to $64,000 and not raised until 2017 to $90,000 when the council asked them to raise it to inflation.

“If we kept with index to inflation from 1986 to today, the amount would be $149,300; however, the revenue lost would be close to $20 million and that would be a significant change,” Reich said. “With the proposal of $100,000, any seniors with a house valued at $125,000 or less would have no tax bill from the city when you combine their homestead exemption with the senior exemption proposed at $100,000.”

In other news

The City Council approved an ordinance amending Chapter 18, Municipal Solid Wastes, of the Dallas City Code by adding restrictions to the placement of brush and bulky trash, providing a limitation on the quantity of brush and bulky trash collections, and providing regulations on oversized brush and bulky trash collections, and providing that fees for excessive and noncompliant brush and bulky trash service will be adopted with the 2019-2020 fee ordinance.

The ordinance goes into effect in July 2020.

Council member Sandy Greyson of District 12 led the cause.

“We are starting with volume limitation,” she said. “We’ll go towards these other kinds of changes, but right now we are starting with the amount of material put out.”

Greyson said the definition of brush includes organic yard trimmings, such as leaves, twigs and other small organic yard waste. Second, yard trimmings placed in paper lawn bags or compostable bags would be considered brush. Yard trimmings placed in plastic bags would be considered bulky trash.

Kelly High, director of Sanitation Services, said the new restrictions include putting out bulky trash and brush to 10 cubic yards a month. Once a year, residents can put up to 20 cubic yards of trash, with only 10 of the 20 being bulk.

“The Department of Sanitation Services plans to educate the public about this new ordinance before it goes into effect in July 2020,” High said.

For those that don’t comply next year in July 2020, a fee would be assessed. The details of the fee would be discussed in the educational campaign.

Currently, there is no restriction for residents on the amount of bulky trash and brush one can put out once a month.

Last, the City Council approved and confirmed the sale of the Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Soldier sculpture in an online auction. The statue was bought for more than $1.4 million by the Dallas law firm, Holmes Firm PC.

One limitation the council agreed on about the sale was that the monument cannot be publicly displayed in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex once it is sold.

Greyson voted in favor of the sale despite not agreeing 100 percent about the limitations set.

“To say that we are not going to allow it to be shown in Fort Worth or Arlington, or anywhere else, seems like a reach we really should not be making,” she said. “But, I support this just so that we could move on.”

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