The city manager recommended a $1.8 billion budget on Tuesday that continues to focus on infrastructure improvements while also decreasing the property tax rate.
“For a fourth 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 Fort Worth’s impressive population growth have come increased demands on city services and infrastructure and, ultimately, the requests for more financial resources.”
The recommended budget is an increase of 4% over the fiscal year 2019 adopted budget. The budget includes 114 net new positions, including 58 in the Police Department, 29 to staff a new animal shelter, 14 to staff a new fire station, ten to staff a new library and six code enforcement officers.
Cooke had five overarching goals as he headed into the 2020 budget. The recommended budget includes these achievements:
Goal 1: Increase funding for capital investment and maintenance
The recommended budget increases cash funding dedicated to capital projects, including funds for street maintenance and repair, as well as funds to improve neighborhood vitality and safety. The budget allows the city to implement the 2018 Bond Program, while planning for a 2022 Bond Program.
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. Cooke sketched out a five-year plan that would add $1.85 billion in capital improvements through the fiscal year 2024 budget.
Goal 2: Open new facilities and meet current obligations
The recommended budget allows the city to staff new facilities approved by voters: the Golden Triangle Library in far north; the Reby Cary Youth Library in east Fort Worth; Fire Station 43 to serve the Walsh Ranch community; Fire Station 45 near US 287 & Harmon Road, an animal shelter facility in far north; and new parks.
The budget also fully funds the increase in City Pension Contributions, previously approved during FY 2019.
Goal 3: Improve Equity of City Services
One addition to the budget process is an effort to begin evaluating infrastructure maintenance and investment based on equity. This effort is in line with recommendations from the city’s Race and Culture Task Force.
Cooke said city officials are starting to use data about equity, which will influence where and how capital improvement dollars are spent.
As part of this effort, the city plans to create a Diversity & Inclusion Department, create a police monitor program and institute a police cadet program. The city will also use pay-as-you-go funds to continue neighborhood improvements and equitable capital investments.
Goal 4: Achieve priority initiatives
This goal emphasizes these priority objectives:
- Increase staffing for police patrol and code enforcement.
- Implement the strategic plan for the Economic Development Department.
- Meet current obligations, such as pay and benefits related to collective bargaining for firefighters and meet and confer for police.
- Offer a pay for performance plan to city employees.
Goal 5: Reduce the property tax rate
Cooke recommended reducing Fort Worth’s property tax rate by 3.75 cents, from 78.5 cents per $100 valuation to 74.75 cents. The owner of a home valued at $200,000 with a homestead exemption would pay $1,196 in city property taxes. If the City Council approves the new rate, the property tax rate will have declined by 10.75 cents over the last four years.
Total appraised property value for 2020 has increased by 13.1% over last year, reaching more than $103 billion.
Give your feedback on the budget
Fort Worth residents have opportunities to comment on the recommended 2020 budget. Budget hearings are scheduled for:
- Aug. 27, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 10, 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. 17 at City Hall.