Fort Worth looks to keep current property tax rate

Fort Worth property tax likely to remain the same in 2021 budget

No property tax cut next year in Fort Worth.

After four years of providing some relief to taxpayers, well, let’s blame COVID-19.

That was the message as the Fort Worth City Council heard recommendations on the Fiscal Year capital budget for 2021 during the work session on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke recommended keeping the current property tax rate of 74.75 cents per $100 assessed valuation to fund city operations and services.

“Keeping the current rate continues the city’s current level of capital investment,” he said.

“Fort Worth will continue to invest in much-needed capital improvements while keeping the property tax rate at its current level despite today’s tight economic and financial conditions,” Cooke told the City Council.

The City Council adopted a $771.9 million fiscal 2020 general fund budget, but declining sales tax and drops in other revenues necessitated cutting $23 million to balance the current budget.

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Councilmembers will receive the proposed fiscal 2021 general fund budget on Aug. 11.

The general fund pays to operate city services and facilities. Property and sales taxes fund 80 percent of the general fund budget.

Fort Worth’s budget includes several other funds, including debt service and those that operate the water and wastewater utility, airports and special projects, among them. The city’s fiscal 2020 operating budget was more than $1.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the Arlington City Council took its first look Aug. 4 at the proposed $518 million fiscal year 2021 operating budget, which includes a recommendation for a property tax rate reduction for the fifth year in a row, and no increases for residents’ water rates, and slight increases in the garbage collection rate and storm water fee.

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Proposals for next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, include investments in public safety, public health and information technology, expansion of the successful Via rideshare transportation service citywide thanks largely to a federal grant, and support for Arlington’s award-winning parks and recreation amenities. This includes the openings of The Beacon, which is the new recreation center at Webb Community Park in southeast Arlington, as well as the East Library and Recreation Center. 

The budget, which the Council will vote on in September after a series of public meetings, also includes funding for a $450,000 generator to ensure the health and comfort of animals being cared for at Arlington Animal Services Center, a $200,000 land planning study along south State Highway 360, $2.2 million in new software to update and secure the backbone of the city’s finance and personnel systems, and $211,392 to fulfill a federal COPS grant that has added 15 police officers. 

Even with these additions and the projected economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic to the city’s revenue sources, the City Council will consider whether to reduce the city’s property tax rate, which is currently 62.40 cents per $100 of assessed value, to 62.25 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Proposals include investing $27 million in road maintenance, nearly $159 million in public safety, $16.5 million for parks and $8 million for libraries.

 – Robert Francis