Fort Worth City Council takes first look at $782M 2021 budget

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Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

The City Council got its first look at a proposed $782 million fiscal 2021 general fund budget Tuesday at the Fort Worth City Council Work Session.

The budget reflects some belt-tightening in the wake of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet maintains the current rate of capital investment, according to the city.

City Manager David Cooke presented a budget that is a $10 million increase from the fiscal 2020 budget. City departments have cut spending by $23 million this year because of declining revenues.

“This is the slowest growth in a number of years,” Cooke said. “Essentially, it’s a flat budget year-over-year.”

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The proposed fiscal 2021 budget will continue to fund new facilities, improve equity of city services and enhance community policing. Water, sewer and solid waste fees will not increase. General employees will not receive pay raises in the upcoming fiscal year and the city is reducing its workforce by 120 positions, to 7,490 employees. A hiring freeze remains in place.

Fort Worth’s Capital and Operating Budgets – which includes the general, debt service, special revenue, enterprise and internal service funds – for fiscal 2021 remains unchanged at just under $2 billion. The city’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The Council will receive the proposed Crime Control and Prevention District fiscal 2021 budget on Friday, Aug. 14.

Tuesday’s presentation comes one week after councilmembers received the proposed $394.3 million Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal 2021. That plan calls for evaluating infrastructure maintenance and investment based on equity and continuing neighborhood and transportation-related improvements.

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Cooke is asking the council continue the current property tax rate of 74.75 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Of that, 59.5 cents goes to fund operations and 15.25 cents to debt service.

Fort Worth expects to collect $556.8 million in property tax revenue, up $15.6 million from last year. Projections put sales tax revenue $4.5 million lower, to $168.3 million to the city’s general fund in fiscal 2021.The general fund pays to operate city services and facilities. Property and sales taxes represent about 80 percent of the general fund budget.

Residents can comment on the recommended budget at public hearings on Sept. 1 and 15 and the tax rate on Sept. 15. The Council is scheduled to approve a tax rate, as well as the fiscal 2021 Capital and Operating Budgets, on Sept. 22.