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Fort Worth council passes pared city budget

FORT WORTH -- In a rare split vote Tuesday, the City Council approved a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year that cuts jobs, eliminates departments and reduces the hours at libraries.

The city has offered new jobs to all but three of more than 150 employees whose positions were eliminated.

Most of the functions of the public health department will be absorbed by other departments -- some work will be done by Tarrant County -- and the housing department will be merged with the economic development department.

Last-minute scrambling -- and the timely arrival of a previously made donation by Chesapeake Energy -- saved the city’s tree farm from elimination. “I cannot support the hasty dismantling of the health department,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who voted against the budget.

City spending has been rising faster than the population for the last few years. The downturn in the economy, along with ongoing bookkeeping problems, forced City Manager Dale Fisseler to order a course change. He said costs will have to be cut over the next five years to bring spending in line with the expected increase in taxes.

“There are going to be four more of these tough budgets to follow,” Mayor Mike Moncrief said.

The city will spend about $1.2 billion next year. The property tax rate, which provides the bulk of the general fund, will stay the same at 85.5 cents per $100 assessed value. However, many homeowners will see increases in their individual tax bills because their home values increased. Water rates will also rise.

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