City employees could get 4 percent raises in new budget

08/10/2014 4:03 PM

08/10/2014 4:26 PM

The City Council will vote Tuesday on giving general employees a 4 percent across-the-board raise thanks to an improving economy and because city employees have realized other savings, documents show.

Some increased user fees for parks are also being considered.

“Economic indicators suggest that the City is recovering from the recent downturn,” says the resolution the council is scheduled to consider, citing a five-year increase of 12 percent in the net taxable value of property and a projected 26 percent rise in sales tax revenues in the five years ending Sept. 31 with fiscal 2014.

Not all municipal employees would get the raise, however. Police and fire employees under the city’s labor contracts, employees who are already at the top of their pay ranges and the newly hired city manager would not receive the 4 percent raise.

The raises, the first since fiscal 2012, would take effect Aug. 23, according to the report.

The fiscal 2015 budget is scheduled to be presented at Tuesday’s precouncil meeting, and a series of public hearings and budget workshops will follow before the council approves the budget on Sept. 16.

Though the property tax rate is expected to stay the same — 85.5 cents per $100 of assessed value — the revenue collected from property is projected to rise next year. Fort Worth should bring in $22 million more in property taxes than in the previous year, since the appraisal district’s reports showed an increase in property values and the number of accounts.

With Tarrant, Parker, Denton and Wise county appraisal districts’ reports all accounted for, the net taxable value of Fort Worth properties is $45.9 billion, an increase of 8.2 percent over 2013.

City officials have been battling with the budget since the recession began in 2008; revenues dropped, making it difficult for the city to make ends meet. In fiscal 2011, the council cut $73 million from the budget, laid off some employees and forced others to take days of unpaid leave.

Park fees may rise

Some of the common fees users pay at parks could also increase as part of the fiscal 2015 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.

The purpose of the increase is to “recoup a portion of the cost associated with a particular activity,” City Manager David Cooke told council members in an informal report.

Raising the costs to reserve parks, community center rooms and athletic fields and increasing the price of summer day camps and the cost of community center identification cards will create an additional $654,305 for the general fund.

Under the proposal, renting a small meeting room at a community center will increase from $25 to $35 an hour, and renting a large room will increase from $60 to $75 an hour.

Renting a baseball or softball field with lights will increase from $15 to $30 an hour. For children, community center ID cards will increase from $10 to $20 annually, and the price would go from $20 to $30 annually for adults.

Golf enterprise fund

The proposed budget for the golf enterprise fund, shown to the Golf Advisory Committee on July 25, projected a 5 percent across-the-board raise for the city employees, at a cost of $85,874.

The $5 million budget also asks for an $850,000 subsidy from the general fund, because a City Council discussion in May determined that golf cannot operate as a self-sustaining fund.

For the first time since rounds started to plummet in the early 2000s, the golf budget shows a realistic picture of revenues and expenditures. Previously, because staffers had to present a balanced budget, they exaggerated projections for rounds played.

The staff is not proposing increases for playing golf. The number of projected rounds dropped from 161,423 to 142,178.

The city has been subsidizing golf since 2002, and the program had an $8.2 million deficit by the end of last year.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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