Councilman Lee Kleinman wants to cut taxes and trim the budget, but his proposal to cut city funding for SROs didn’t win any fans in Lake Highlands

As the city councilmember who twice tried in September to cut funding for the Dallas Police Department school resource officer (SRO) program at Lake Highlands High and a few other schools, Lee Kleinman hasn’t earned himself any congratulatory dinners at Shady’s or Cedar & Vine.

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Kleinman, proudly miserly when it comes to the city budget and vehement about cutting taxes for the citizens of Dallas, believes Richardson ISD should pay for their own SROs. With half of his district falling within RISD boundaries, his fight hasn’t exactly gotten him elected Homecoming King at RISD’s Greenville Avenue headquarters, either.

The city council met for 12 hours Wednesday, considering and reconsidering amendments to cut a budget left decimated by COVID-19. Kleinman’s SRO proposal, which passed 8-6 last week, lost this week 10-5. DPD SROs at LHHS are safe – for now.

“I got spammed by rabid Lake Highlands people,” Kleinman said of last week’s email campaign targeted at councilmembers who voted to cut SRO funding. “Lake Highlands won. I think I’ve exhausted my options.”

“I’ve never questioned the benefits of SROs,” continued Kleinman, “but other school districts are finding a way to pay for the privilege of having SROs. Richardson should, too. RISD has the ability to raise taxes, but they are pushing that off on us. RISD has the same ability to set a budget and set priorities as the City of Dallas. RISD needs to pay their own way.”

At the 12th hour, literally, Kleinman proposed shifting SROs to the budget of the Lake Highlands and LH North Public Improvement Districts (PIDs). The PIDs collect an assessment from area property owners to pay for public safety, graffiti management, lighting, landscaping and other improvements. That measure failed, as well.

“Dallas citizens are taxed twice,” stressed Kleinman. “They pay DISD taxes, then they pay City of Dallas taxes, which are now going to pay for RISD SROs. It’s an equity issue.”

Dallas ISD officers patrol DISD schools, but the DPD provides SROs to Dallas schools falling outside the boundaries of Dallas ISD. Nine DPD SROs serve RISD schools, and 7 of those are funded by RISD. Dallas pays for two LHHS SROs, at an annual cost of about $123,446 each. Dallas’ total annual budget for SROs is $628,756.

“I put forth 40 budget amendments to save $70 million, but [councilmembers] want to fight over SROs and mounted police, which was another big battle I lost,” said Kleinman. “This is one of the many battles I’ve had with my colleagues over wasteful spending at the city.”

Kleinman said he and other councilmembers received large numbers of emails regarding police funding and various other budget issues, and they read each one.

“I did try to respond to most of them, but I pay more attention to the people who live in my district. [Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam] McGough did a lot of vote trading, horse trading, [to get the SRO funding restored]. It’s finished now. The folks in Lake Highlands absolutely did what’s in Lake Highlands’ best interest.”

“I’m a huge proponent of using OPM – other people’s money – to fund whatever I can for the City of Dallas,” continued Kleinman. “I could imagine that people in Lake Highlands are not happy with me, but what I’m trying to do is get taxes down. It’s not about me versus the folks in Lake Highlands. It’s about me keeping other people’s hands out of the pockets of Dallas.”

Kleinman has served more than 7 years on the council representing District 11, west of Lake Highlands, and has just 8 months left in office to accomplish his mission. He has advice for citizens here in District 10.

“You’ve got a good, activated group of citizens in Lake Highlands. Being able to rally to a cause is a good thing. That’s what we want – engaged citizens.”

The council will take a final budget vote Sept. 23.