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Friday, February 26, 2021

Fort Worth City Council approves $1.8B budget, cuts tax rate

Infrastructure improvements and another decrease in property taxes highlight the $1.8 billion budget passed by the Fort Worth City Council at its Sept. 17 meeting.

The budget was approved by a 5-3 margin. Mayor Betsy Price voted for approval, along with council members Carlos Flores (District 2), Gyna Bivens (District 5), Dennis Shingleton (District 7) and Ann Zadeh (District 9). Councilmen Brian Byrd (District 3), Cary Moon (District 4) and Jungus Jordan (District 6) voted against; District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray was not in attendance.

The approved budget is an increase of 3.4% over the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

It 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, nine to staff a new library branch, and six code enforcement officers.

The city’s property tax rate underwent another reduction, this time 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 will pay $1,196 in city property taxes.

The property tax rate has been reduced by 10.75 cents over the past four years.

“It’s a very good budget,” District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton said. “We’ve got flexibility. We beefed up the police force, capital expenditures, staffing.

“I think it’s a good budget. I think the people ought to be proud of what (City Manager) David Cooke and his office have come up with.”

The 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.

It also allows the city to implement the 2018 Bond Program, while planning for a 2022 Bond Program.

The budget also includes 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. The five-year plan would add $1.85 billion in capital improvements through the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Fort Worth is the 13th most populated city in the United States as of 2018 with a population of 895,008, an increase from 741,206 in the 2010 census.

The budget allows the city to staff new facilities approved by voters, including:

• The Golden Triangle Library in far north Fort Worth.

• The Reby Cary Youth Library in east Fort Worth.

• Fire Station 43 to serve the Walsh Ranch community.

• Fire Station 45 near U.S. 287 and Harmon Road.

• An animal shelter facility in far north.

• New parks.

The budget also fully funds an increase in city pension contributions, previously approved during fiscal year 2019.

“We’re the only major city in Texas that is lowering the (tax) rate with the incoming cap next year,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “I’m proud of the hard work we’ve done on that tax rate.

“I’m excited about what this budget offers. It really does improve service to you while keeping that rate down,” she said.

The budget will go into effect on Oct. 1 and run through Sept. 30, 2020.

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