Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the city has to close a budget shortfall of about $50 million over the next year. As the council got its first look at the 2014 budget Tuesday, it faced a year of cuts in road maintenance, slowing the growth of police and fire services and some layoffs.
“Its tough,” Mayor Price said. “Its always hard to do a budget that’s going to involve cutting anything.”
The budget would do away with 36 vacant jobs in the Fire Department and 46 vacant jobs in the Police Department. The city will layoff 16 people in the Planning Department as part of a reorganization.
The proposed budget also cuts funding for street maintenance. The cut in road maintenance money will mean the city will have to put a priority on which streets it fixes first.
“You may not get, immediately, your potholes filled but we’ll take care of them,” Mayor Price said. “The worst of the streets will be handled and we’ll do the best we can without asking our citizens for a tax rate increase.”
The most vocal budget battle so far has been over the police budget. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association warns against any cuts in the department’s budget.
“It makes no sense economically to make these cuts,” said association president Steve Hall. “It makes no sense politically in the light of public opinion and it sure doesn’t make sense for the safety of the citizens of Fort Worth.”
But budget planners say the vacant police jobs have been unfilled for years and the budget actually includes more money for police operations.
“This year the general budget for police is up about $4 million and the citizens crime patrol will be up about $4.6 million,” Mayor Price said.
While the fire department isn’t losing any active fire fighters, its not gaining any money. It’s budget is flat. The fire chief wasn’t able to go on camera until his budget is formally introduced but he told us going into the meeting this is gong to be a very hard year for the fire department.
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