City manager Marty Suhm played the first card in her plan to get a tax increase to help close next year’s budget deficit on Wednesday. That’s when the council voted to eliminate the $10,000 signing bonus for new police officers for the rest of the fiscal year.

It will be almost impossible to continue the program to add 200 new cops annually – one of Mayor Park Cities’ top budget priority – without the bonuses. Dallas not only pays less than surrounding police departments, but the job is more difficult here. All things being equal, why would a new cop want to work here when he or she could work in Plano? (Or so a friend, a Plano cop, told me when I asked him that question.) Hence the need for the bonus.

After the jump, how Suhm will maneuver the council to raise the property tax rate under the guise of restoring the bonus to keep the 200-cop program in place – and, in the process, close a few more budget holes.

Never, never underestimate Suhm’s skill and intelligence. That’s why I’m convinced she will be able to get the council to go for a tax hike, even though most of them see increases as the sinful result of a wasteful government. And here is how she will do it:

• First, tell the council she has found a way to keep the 200 cops in the stripped down, lean and mean budget, despite the $190 million-plus deficit. For which the council will gaze lovingly at her.

• Then, bring in a couple of police department officials to explain how difficult it will be to recruit and hire the cops, given that the city is so uncompetitive with salary — and that the bonus is gone.

• At this point, one or two council members will suggest that Suhm needs to find a way to get the bonus back in the budget. Because, after all, didn’t the police officials just say how necessary the bonus was?

• At which point Suhm will whip out the budget with the tax increase. It will not only include money for the bonuses, but money to restore other “essential” service cuts. The “essential” services will likely include a smattering of council-friendly projects that weren’t in the no-tax increase budget.

• The council will then rise in a standing ovation for Suhm, vote the tax increase into the budget, and congratulate themselves on keeping the cops in the budget. Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper will quote the mayor as saying: "There were hard choices to make, but the council found the courage to do the right thing for the citizens of Dallas.”