A new plan for the city calls for creating new departments, focusing on neighborhoods and evaluating Fort Worth’s economic development incentive policies.
City Manager David Cooke will split the housing and economic development department into two divisions, with Jay Chapa, director of the current housing and economic development, leading a department focusing solely on economic development.
The leader for another department, focusing on neighborhoods and housing, will be named later.
The two units — housing and economic development — were merged into one department in the fiscal year 2009 budget in a string of cuts aimed at reducing budget gaps.
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Mayor Betsy Price, however, said it is time to separate the departments again and focus on neighborhoods.
“We have had such incredible growth, it just makes sense to split them up and have someone different heading them up who can focus on each aspect of that,” Price said.
“In a strong city, we simply have to put some focus back on our neighborhoods.”
Cooke, who started in Fort Worth in June, announced the yearlong, 15-initiative work plan to city staff in an internal newsletter on Jan. 7.
Other goals in the plan are on tap with the stated objectives of Fort Worth City Council members, such as not using fund balance to bridge gaps in the fiscal year 2016 budget, not raising property taxes and transferring more money to capital expenditures.
Price said it is a good plan. “I think he (Cooke) is very much on track with what we hired him to do — the transparency piece, open government, consolidation and being fiscally responsible with our resources,” Price said.
Another strategy in the plan calls for modifying the roles of assistant city managers, who will be asked to focus on projects across the city regardless of the departments involved. They will be tasked with solving city problems on a more “horizontal” approach as opposed to a “vertical” approach, according to the newsletter.
Other priorities for 2015 include:
Hiring a new police chief after the retirement of Chief Jeff Halstead;
Implementing a five-year funded capital improvement plan for all funds;
Creating a new department responsible for the city’s lands, buildings leases and fleets
Evaluating the city’s economic development incentive policies and strategies;
Developing a long-range debt and capital financing plan;
Evaluating changes to the employee health insurance program and wellness initiatives;
Evaluating the financial position of several funds for their short term and long-term financial viability.
The plan also includes completing the classification and compensation study of city employees, a study the City Council approved in July. The city spent $300,000 on a consultant to study how much employees should be getting paid and to evaluate the classification system.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984