Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Fort Worth passed a $1.45 billion budget that closed a $40 million budget gap, reduced cuts to the fire department, keeps tax levels as they are and promises to continue maintenance on sports complexes, alleys and streets.
But while residents won’t see many changes to service, there will be changes in how some departments, like fire and code enforcement, do their jobs as they try to maintain services with fewer resources.
“I don’t think that the word budget ever gets to appear in a sentence unless its flanked by the words ‘tough’, ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging,’” homeless advocate Cindy Crane told the council before they passed the budget Tuesday. Crane was there to thank them for maintaining funding for her programs.
Others expressed concerns about the 2014 budget.
“I’m here to speak against the reduction in police budget because of potentially dangerous response times that I’ve experienced,” said Fort Worth resident Terri Smith.
The police budget forced the elimination of some vacant positions, but Chief Jeff Halstead told council members earlier the department couldn’t have graduated enough cadets to fill those jobs anyway.
The fire department will have to move personnel from areas such as training and fire prevention to manning fire trucks, to avoid reductions in service.
But while the city has tightened its belt to maintain services, others say they’ve been left behind by budget cuts for years.
“They need to finish the job,” said Regina Blair of the Stop Six Sunrise Neighborhood Association. “That’s all we’re asking.”
Blair pointed to old, abandoned houses and vacant lots the city bought up years ago. The intention was to rebuild along a main avenue through the neighborhood. But it still is lined with collapsing houses and lots dotted with “No Trespassing/City of Fort Worth Property” signs.
Blair says its because the city hasn’t had the will to find and focus resources on areas like this. She also claims there is a lack of coordination putting city money with grants and private dollars to fund projects like a Stop Six revitalization during a bad economy. “We wanted to instill the ‘wow factor’ in our neighborhood so people would come back.”
But Mayor Betsy Price says she’s confident next year the city will finally have the money it needs to reinvest in neighborhoods. “Come next September my hope is that all of our employees will have received a raise and that we will be talking about excess revenue that we can invest in future growth for our employees and our city,” she said.
The budget allows for an employee pay raise next September if tax revenues and budget savings meet projections.
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