Photo by Jolene Guzman
Dallas City Councilor Micky Garus suggested that voters decide whether pay for the Dallas Aquatic Center general fund subsidy, about $400,000 per year. The outcome of the vote would determine whether the center continues to operate.
As of Wednesday, August 22, 2018
DALLAS — Councilor Micky Garus added a layer to the discussion about the proposed public safety utility fee to pay for firefighters and police officers at Monday’s Dallas City Council meeting.
The council is slated to address the fee at its Sept. 4 meeting, and Garus expressed what he believes is an option to prioritize public safety: Let voters decide if they want to keep the Dallas Aquatic Center open.
Garus said councilors and city staff have been discussing the issue and getting feedback from residents before a vote on the safety utility fee. If passed by the council, the money would pay for two firefighters and two officers through the monthly $4.85 fee on water bills.
“One of the biggest things that we are continuing to hear as we get closer to our decision is the concern that we are not asking them to vote on this on the ballot,” Garus said. “No matter what we call it, they perceive it as a tax … and think that they should have an opportunity to vote.”
He said that it shouldn’t be police and fire that voters decide on, but whether taxpayers should pick up the tab for the general fund subsidy for the aquatic center, which amounts to about $400,000 per year. Garus said he knows the center is a well-used asset in the community.
“The question is, as a city, what do we need to be responsible for? What are the priorities” Garus said. “Is it right to say that we don’t have enough money to fund police and fire, which could potentially cause loss of life or property damage, while we are paying over $400,000 per year for the aquatic center?”
He proposed that council approve the utility fee until aquatic center operations can be placed on a ballot for citizens to approve or deny.
“No matter what they decide after that vote, those four positions will be rolled over to the general fund and guaranteed indefinitely, and the future of the aquatic center will be in their hands,” Garus said. “I personally think they would vote to pass it. I think they realize the value in the aquatic center. That being said, I don’t think we should make that decision for them.”
The proposal came as a surprise to other councilors.
“I have so much to say to that, but you just brought it up today. I would obviously like to address that, but at this point, I’m going to think about it and talk about the pros and cons at the September meeting,” said Councilor Kelly Gabliks. “This kind of came out of the air, and so I just don’t feel, at least for myself, that I can really comment on that until I had a chance to sit down and sort some things out.”
Garus acknowledged that he tossed a curve ball into the conversation, and asked City Attorney Lane Shetterly to address how the council could proceed on his proposal. Shetterly said the earliest it could go to a vote is in the spring.
“I would like you guys to think about it,” Garus said. “I think that would be a responsible thing to do and the other thing that would do is gain a lot of trust from our citizen base who feel like they want to be a part of this big decision.”