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2019 budget proposed, opportunities for public feedback unveiled

Posted Aug. 15, 2018

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The city manager recommended a $1.91 billion budget on Aug. 14 that continues to focus on sustainable solutions while also decreasing the property tax rate.

“For the third consecutive year, the city’s economic outlook is positive, from improvements in local job growth and sales tax collections to increases in residential and commercial values and new building permits,” City Manager David Cooke said. “Along with this growth have come increased demands on city services and infrastructure and, ultimately, the requests for city dollars.”

The recommended budget is an increase of 2.51 percent over the fiscal year 2018 adopted budget. The budget includes 82 net new positions.

The recommended budget includes these achievements:

  • Lowers the property tax rate by two cents.
  • Increases cash funding dedicated to capital projects, including additional funds for street maintenance and repair, and funds to improve neighborhood vitality and safety, and additional funds for park maintenance and improvements.
  • Staffs new facilities approved by voters in the 2014 bond program: the Golden Triangle Library in far north, Fire Station 43 in far west and new parks.
  • Recommends a plan to make the city’s employee pension plan more sustainable. The recommended budget includes adding $10.2 million in the General Fund for the pension. That number represents 3 percent of the general fund payroll.
  • Adjusts the 2019 budget by $5.5 million for police budget fixes.
  • Emphasizes priority initiatives such as improving the Las Vegas Trail neighborhood, a disparity study for the Minority Business Enterprise program, implementing the Economic Development Strategic Plan and increased staffing the for Planning & Development Department.
  • Continues the practice of not using reserves to balance the budget.

Tax rate decrease proposed

Cooke recommended reducing Fort Worth’s property tax rate by 2 cents, from 80.5 cents per $100 valuation to 78.5 cents. The reduction is needed to help Fort Worth compete with other cities to attract new businesses.

The owner of a home valued at $221,800 with a homestead exemption would pay $1,393 in city property taxes.

One cent of the tax rate is worth about $6.2 million to the city’s budget, Cooke said.

Five-year capital plan in the works

Earlier, Cooke presented an outline for a five-year capital planning process aimed at replacing and improving aging infrastructure for one of the fastest-growing large cities in the nation. “It’s important to plan for both growth and the cost of growth,” Cooke said.

Fort Worth adds about 20,000 new residents each year, and population estimates call for Fort Worth to jump from No. 15 to No. 12 among U.S. cities over the coming years.

Cooke’s capital planning goals for the coming fiscal year include:

  • Implement the 2014 and 2018 bond programs that were approved by voters.
  • Increase funding for infrastructure maintenance and investment.
  • Continue improvements through the Neighborhood Improvement Strategy. That program is responsible for improvements to the Stop Six and Ash Crescent neighborhoods over the last two years.

Cooke sketched out a five-year plan that would add $1.74 billion in capital improvements through the fiscal year 2023 budget.

One addition to the capital planning process for the next five years is an effort to begin evaluating infrastructure maintenance and investment based on equity. This effort is in line with upcoming recommendations to be presented this fall by the city’s Race and Culture Task Force.

“We’re starting to use data about equity, and it will influence where and how our capital improvement dollars are spent,” Cooke said.

Give your feedback on the budget

Fort Worth residents have opportunities to comment on the proposed 2019 budget. Budget hearings are scheduled for:

  • Aug. 28, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 11, 7 p.m.

Hearings will be conducted during regular meetings of the City Council at City Hall, 200 Texas St.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on adopting the budget and the tax rate at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at City Hall.

Residents can also email their feedback.

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