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Budget Cuts Ahead For Fort Worth

Deep budget cuts are ahead for Fort Worth city government.  Bottom line, it balances what was a 73 million dollar shortfall, without raising the tax rate.  Dale Fissler’s proposed budget cuts jobs, 90 layoffs and elininating 113 vacant positions. Which ones aren’t spelled out yet.  The budget proposal freezes 40 vacant police officer positions and eliminates 36 vacant fire fighter positions.  IT also hikes some city fees, including a hike in water bills.  The proposal calls for using natural gas bonus and royalty payments, a total of nearly 7 million dollars.  Taxpayers can speak out at four upcoming public hearings on the budget. For more information, click here.

Below is the press release from the city.

(FORT WORTH, TX.)…City Manager Dale Fisseler today presented the City Council with a proposed $1.3 billion budget that focuses on sustainable solutions to current challenges with no increase to the property tax rate. The proposal closes a $73 million funding shortfall in the General Fund, which accounts for roughly $522 million of the total budget.

Today’s presentation begins a month of detailed deliberation about the city budget. There will be four public hearings through the months of August and September. The final budget document is scheduled to be considered by the City Council on Sept. 21.

“The proposal presented today is our financial blue print for sustainable, long-term city services,” said Fisseler. “It’s our attempt—without a tax increase—to balance our need to reduce costs while maintaining the best possible quality of life for the people of Fort Worth.”

One significant change in the proposed budget is the absence of furloughs for general employees, which saved more than $3 million in the current fiscal year.

“We focused very intently on long-term solutions to balance the budget, and furloughs are a short-term fix. Because of our strategy, and because of our concern for our general employees, we felt it was important to restore the annual salaries for those who were forced to take time off without pay this year,” said Fisseler.

Below are some of the other major changes outlined in the city manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011:

COST REDUCTIONS:

Departmental Reductions/Consolidations: The following is a brief sampling of some of the departmental cost reductions and consolidations.

  • Public Safety cost reductions
    • Freeze 40 vacant police officer positions
    • Eliminate 36 vacant fire fighter positions
    • Strategically deactivate fire companies at one or more of the 12 two-company fire stations in Fort Worth. (deactivate average of up to six companies per day)
    • Reduce overtime
  • Other Departments cost reductions
    • Close Forest Park Pool
    • Close three branch libraries (Meadowbrook, Northside and Ridglea)
    • Maintain homelessness program, but reduce funding to $2.4M
    • Reduce maintenance at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
    • Eliminate funding for freeway light maintenance
    • Reduce Consumer Health inspections
    • Reduce private property mowing (properties in violation of high grass rule)
  • Environmental Management services redistributed
    • Environmental Services transferred to Transportation and Public Works
    • Solid Waste transferred to Code Compliance
  • Community Relations services redistributed
    • Internal communications transferred to Human Resources
    • External communications transferred to City Manager’s Office
    • Neighborhood Education program transferred to Human Resources
    • Early Childhood Matters program transferred to Library
  • Parks and Community Services consolidated with the Library
  • Government Relations consolidated with Law
  • Non-departmental programs
    • Maintain funding for the arts, but reduce to $700,000
    • Eliminate subsidy for Ambulance Authority
    • Eliminate employee vacation buy-back
  • City jobs eliminated
    • Overall: 203 (90 filled, 113 vacant)

Healthcare and Pension Benefits: The City Council will be briefed about potential solutions to healthcare and pension costs during the Budget Study Session on Friday.

  • The city manager has asked staff to retain healthcare benefits for current retirees and employees hired before January 2009 when they retire, and asked that staff identify the funding strategy to support this direction.
  • No change to pension benefits for current retirees. The city manager has asked staff to indentify funding and benefit changes for future retirees to address the unfunded liability.

REVENUE ENHANCEMENTS:

Gas Well Revenues: $6.8M

Repeal policy restriction of ad valorem taxes on mineral values (bonus and royalty payments from city property still reserved for capital needs). The additional $6.8M would be used for the following services that would be cut without this funding:

  • Bridge maintenance
  • Street repairs and maintenance
  • Alleyway cleaning
  • Graffiti abatement
  • Student attendance court
  • Gang intervention
  • Community center operations

Excess Fund Balance: $15M

Use money in excess of minimum savings limit in General Fund and Worker’s Compensation Fund to restore debt capacity to help ensure capital projects are completed on time.

Fee Increases: $6.8M

  • Increase monthly water/sewer rate by 2.5%
  • Increase various Municipal Golf fees
  • Increase multi-family inspection fee by $2
  • Increase monthly Environmental Protection Fund fee by 25 cents (This fund was established to help the city comply with state and federal environmental mandates)

OTHER FACTS:

  • Budget Public Hearings: There will be four scheduled public hearings that will take place in the City Council chamber at Fort Worth City Hall, located at 1000 Throckmorton St. The times and dates are as follows:
    • 10 a.m. Aug. 17 and 24
    • 7 p.m. Sept. 14 and 21
  • Reduction in force: Layoffs will not be final until the budget is adopted by the city council in September. Employees whose position will be eliminated will be notified beginning the day after budget adoption. Their employment will end Nov. 5, and they will be given preferential consideration for vacant positions in which they are qualified for one year.
  • FY2010 Adopted Budget: $1.282B (General Fund $528M). $59M Deficit, 205 positions eliminated, incentivized retirements, department consolidations, service reductions, employee benefit reductions. No tax increase.
  • FY2009 Adopted Budget: $1.255B (General Fund: $538M). $24M Deficit, 116 positions eliminated, department consolidations, public health services transferred to county, reduced library hours. No tax increase.
  • Number of Departments: The FY2011 Budget proposal reduces the number of departments from 22 to 19.