The City of Dallas is reportedly experiencing a major staffing shortage, logging vacancy rates much higher than other major cities in Texas.
Dallas had a shortage of 3,400 City personnel as of July 31, which is just over 20% of all City jobs available, according to The Dallas Morning News. Of the roughly 17,088 positions available on City staff, Dallas had only 13,617 roles filled.
Austin’s vacancy rate for city jobs was 14%, while San Antonio reported a vacancy rate of just 10%, per the DMN.
Of the biggest cities in Texas, only Houston had a slightly higher vacancy rate than Dallas at 22%.
Nina Arias, director of Dallas Human Resources, wrote in a statement that other cities may have lower vacancy rates than Dallas due to how each city measures open positions.
“I trust these are professional people that know what they’re saying and what they’re doing,” she wrote, per the DMN. “But whenever we do a study and try to get data across all of us, we’re all doing things so differently, measuring things so differently, that getting to the apples to apples is very difficult.”
Arias added that the high vacancy rate in Dallas appears “to be the new normal post-pandemic.”
“The long-term impact of the current vacancy crisis is unclear. However, it is clear businesses and organizations like the City of Dallas need to find creative ways to attract and retain qualified workers,” she said, per the DMN.
The City has cited multiple factors that have affected the vacancy rate, such as a lack of applicants with the right skills, a growing private sector, and outdated software.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said that such factors have contributed to the lack of hiring by the City.
“Ensuring we have the right talent is crucial for the success and growth of our city,” he said, per the DMN. “We continue to work on developing strategies to recruit and retain sustainable talent short and long term.”
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, one of the most significant shortages being endured is at the Dallas Police Department. DPD only has around 3,200 officers on staff. A City report, however, claims that the department needs roughly 4,000 officers to adequately manage crime in the city.
Arias told the DMN that the City is attempting to improve wages and employee benefits and has even tried to improve the overall perception of City jobs.
Over the past six years, the City has increased the minimum wage for municipal workers by more than 70%, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
An increase in spending can also be seen in City workers’ pension plans, as the City has increased pension spending by roughly 42% in the past decade.
Increased spending across City departments has also led to the City getting called a financial “sinkhole” in a report by Truth in Accounting.
Despite the City’s claims that it is trying to attract more workers, there are currently only 104 positions listed as open on its job website as of September 22.
Catherine Cuellar, the communications director for the City, said that the number of vacancies has made it hard for many departments to perform at expected levels.
“My department has been sub-optimally performing due to illness and turnover over the past few weeks,” she said, per the DMN.
Lee Adler, a professor at Cornell University, said that “[w]hen you get to a figure as high as 20%, you have significant inefficiency,” adding that it can result in “considerable grumbling from the citizenry who don’t feel like they’re getting any kind of bang for their buck.”
“These shortfalls have got to be corrected, because otherwise, the impact in the short run will be a lot of aggravation,” he told the DMN. “But in the long run, it can really damage people’s belief that we can collectively solve any problems.”
Adler’s predictions may have already come to pass. Last spring, a 2023 Community Survey conducted by the City questioned Dallas residents about their thoughts on how the City was performing. Many respondents expressed frustration with the City and its services.
Of those surveyed, only 24% said they believe residents “receive good value” for the taxes they pay, which is a sharp decrease from the 45% that answered this way in 2016, according to KERA News.
When asked about crime prevention and police responses, less than 35% of respondents rated the current system as either “excellent” or “good,” a drop of over 50% since 2014.