Some of the higher property taxes Fort Worth homeowners will pay this year will go toward raises, street repairs and hiring employees to staff a new library and community center.
Fort Worth plans to spend $88.6 million more in the upcoming budget year that starts Oct. 1, with a chunk going to cover increasing city employee benefits and health care costs.
In all, $40.2 million in extra revenue will bring the 2018 general fund to $679.2 million. That’s the portion of the budget that covers the police and fire departments, community services and city operations that most residents are familiar with.
The city’s proposed 2018 budget tops out at $1.73 billion, an increase of $88.6 million from last year. Residents have two opportunities to speak out on the proposed budget during public hearings at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Sept. 12.
The council is scheduled to adopt the budget Sept. 19.
Of that $40.2 million, about $12 million will be spread among increases in street maintenance, covering grants and tax breaks promised as economic incentives to companies, and putting more taxpayer dollars toward the city’s growing pension issue.
The money for the pension fund, $4 million, will be set aside and kicked in only if employees make some benefit concessions and increase their contributions. Pension issues are being worked out by the pension board and city staff. A report is expected this fall.
In 2018, Facebook will begin receiving its tax rebate on its data centers in far north Fort Worth, as will the residential and retail developments Clearfork and Waterside, all totaling about $3.5 million.
About 80 percent of the operating budget is funded by property and sales taxes. Even though the city plans to reduce the property tax rate 3 cents, to 80.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, homeowners whose appraisals increased are likely to pay more.
The city is also benefiting from strong consumer spending. In fiscal 2018, sales tax revenue is expected to increase 10 percent. The city also collects revenues in other taxes, and building, licensing and permit fees.
Public safety will cost $421.2 million in 2018, or 62 percent of the general fund. It includes pay raises given to police officers and firefighters spelled out in their contracts, the hiring for 40 police and civilian positions to staff the new Sixth Patrol Division in far north Fort Worth that will open in 2018, and 24 positions at the new Spinks Airport fire station. Those projects were approved in the 2014 bond program.
Moreover, the city will begin funding 15 police positions that were previously paid for through a federal program that has run out. That program gave cities money during the Great Recession to keep those employees on the payroll, rather than lay them off in the downturn.
“We are improving,” said City Manager David Cooke. “Any time you add a fire station to the city you’re going to improve response. The whole idea of the Sixth Patrol is improving response not just for the north, but the whole city.”
Staffing will also come at the new Victory Forest Community Center in south Fort Worth and the Golden Triangle Branch library in north Fort Worth, which were bond program projects. In 2017, the city added a $2.5 million neighborhood program that goes strictly toward improvements. Cavile Place/Stop Six served as the pilot. The program will remain in 2018, but a new neighborhood won’t be chosen for a few months.
In all, Fort Worth will add 168 new employees in the new fiscal year, pushing the total number to 6,764. The city is eliminating 10 positions in Municipal Court that have been vacant for some time because of reduced workloads, but adding 14 positions in planning and development to handle increase in permit and plan reviews because of the city’s growth, for example.
General city employees will be eligible for 3 percent merit pay raises in the new fiscal year.