After years of dealing with significant budget shortfalls, the City of Fort Worth is expected to face a far more manageable situation for the 2015 fiscal year.
On Tuesday afternoon, City Manager David Cooke presented the $1.5 billion city budget during the pre-council meeting. The city is looking at a deficit of just about $2 million this year, but it will be easily covered by the excess fund balance.
Cooke’s presentation said the economic outlook for the city is positive. In an interview with NBC 5, Mayor Betsy Price said that’s due in part to increase property tax values and revenue and sales tax increases.
City staff also met budget savings goals for the 2014 fiscal year. Those savings have also helped to better the economic situation and that general employees will get a 4 percent raise.
“General employees haven’t had a raise really since ’08," Price said.
For citizens, the big news is that the tax rate will remain at .8550/$100. There will be 16 positions cut, but overall a total of 35 positions will be added.
“I think some of our high growth areas, particularly planning and development that have just seen the number of applications, permits coming in, the plans being submitted, has just gone through the roof this year," Price said. “And we simply have to help them manage that growth.”
Other areas that may see additional employees is Code Compliance and Parks and Community Services, among a few others.
The top priority for the council and city remains public safety. Cooke’s presentation showed that 48 percent of the budget is for fire and police. The budget also contains funding to open the new Police and Fire Training Facility during 2015.
But just because the city’s budget situation is finally coming out of the economic downturn doesn’t mean the city will start spending away.
“It's good news, but we’re not going to go just letting people go spend willy-nilly, so to speak,” the mayor said.
The city plans to maintain its long-term sustainability plan, but as the budget continues to improve in the years ahead the city will re-evaluate where new city resources may need to be added.
The first public hearing is Aug. 19. The budget is scheduled to be approved by Sept. 16.