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City Council: Budget increase 2.51 percent for 2019

🕐 4 min read

The Fort Worth City Council on Aug. 14 approved a resolution to propose a reduction in Fort Worth’s property tax rate by 2 centers, from 80.5 cents per $100 valuation to 78.5 cents.

The proposed ad valorem tax rate is 80.5 cents per $100. The proposed property tax rate is 78.5 cents. The owner of a home valued at $221,800 with a homestead exemption would pay $1,393 in city property taxes.

An ad valorem tax is based on the value of a transaction or of property. It is typically imposed at the time of a transaction, as in the case of a sales tax or value-added tax. Both will be up for a vote by the council as part of the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget at the Sept. 18 meeting.

One cent of the tax rate is worth about $6.2 million to the city’s budget, Cooke said. Total tax revenue from properties would increase by 2.86 percent.

In the meantime, the council scheduled two public hearings. The first will be Aug. 28, and the second will be Sept. 11, both at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers, 200 Texas St.

OPERATING BUDGET PREVIEW

A week after giving council members a look at the proposed capital budget for fiscal year 2019, City Manager David Cooke presented the proposed operating budget at the Aug. 14 work session.

The total recommended operating budget is $1.72 billion, up 3.6 percent from FY 2018. The overall budget is $1.91 billion, an increase of 2.51 percent from FY 2018.

The recommended general fund is up 5.8 percent to about $674.6 million.

Cooke reiterated that recommended property tax rate would drop 2 cents to 78.5 per $100. He said the reduction would help Fort Worth in attracting new businesses.

Cooke said a penny of the tax rate is worth about $6.2 million to the city’s budget.

“For a 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,” Cooke said. “Along with this growth have come increased demands on city services and infrastructure and, ultimately, the requests for and use of city dollars.”

The largest general fund revenues are expected to be from property tax (53 percent), which will be an overall increase of about 8 percent. Sales tax income is projected to be about 24 percent of the general fund budget, an increase of about 5.6 percent.

No surprise, the largest general fund expenditures are again expected to be for police (up 5.9 percent to about $253.9 million) and fire departments ($150 million, up 3.4 percent).

Among the goals of the new budget is fixing structural problems within the city. For example, the police department is on track to overspend the FY 2018 budget by about $8.5 million, and FY 2019 has been adjusted by $5.5 million for structural fixes.

Among the largest goals is fixing the city’s pension fund, which is currently heading toward insolvency with a liability of about $1.6 billion. The recommended general fund contains $10.2 million, or 3 percent of payroll, for helping with this problem.

Cooke had previously outlined a recommended plan to get the pension fund back on track. The recommendation, which amounts to an addition of almost $50 million per year above the current approximately $90 million being put in, includes additional contributions from the city (taxpayers), increased contributions from employees, changes to eligibility (such as establishing a minimum retirement age), and changes to employees’s and retirees’s cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).

Cooke’s presentation on the operating budget also noted no rate increase in water and sewer services, stormwater and solid waste services.

The budget increases funding to capital projects such as street maintenance and repair, funds to improve neighborhood vitality and safety, and funds for park maintenance and improvements.

Also included is funding and subsequent staffing for new facilities approved in the 2014 bond program, such as the Golden Triangle Library, Fire Station No. 43, and new parks.

Priorities in the 2019 budget include projects 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 for the Planning and Development Department.

In his previous capital budget presentation, Cooke outlined a five-year capital planning process designed to replace and improve aging infrastructure. He presented statistics that show Fort Worth is adding about 20,000 new residents each year and is currently the 15th largest city in the nation, with expectations to become the 12th largest in the next few years.

Among the capital planning goals he presented previously were:

*Implementation of the 2014 and 2018 bond programs.

*Increase funding for infrastructure maintenance and investment.

*Continue improvements through the Neighborhood Improvement Strategy that has been responsible to improvements in Stop Six and Ash Crescent recently.

A five-year plan Cooke demonstrated would add around $1.74 billion in capital improvements through FY 2023.

Public hearings are set for Aug. 28 and Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall before the council is scheduled to vote on the budget on Sept. 18.

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