Cowtown Feels Budget Pinch

$59 million in cuts to target swimming pools and libraries, eliminate jobs

Struggling to make up a $59 million budget shortfall, Fort Worth’s city manager recommended closing most city pools and two libraries, laying off more than 200 workers and furloughing city employees for eight days.

City Manager Dale Fisseler Tuesday presented his proposed budget cuts Tuesday to City Council members, who are set to pass next year’s budget next month.

Fisseler said his priority was to preserve essential city services while avoiding a tax increase.

"Our basic core services are police, fire and the water and sewer," Fisseler said. "Things will keep running. It's not that the citizens won't get those basic services. But they're not going to get some of the services that they've enjoyed in the past."

Fort Worth police officers are set to receive a 3 percent pay raise in a contract that was passed before the economic downturn.

But other city employees would receive a 3 percent pay cut, because they would be furloughed for eight days.

City workers also would pay more for health insurance. The hike would equal about 1 percent of their salary.

All neighborhood swimming pools -- except the one in Forest Park -- would close next summer.

"I don't like it," said 13-year-old Esmeralda Ruiz, who swims almost every day at the Sylvania Park pool, which was built in 1927.

Two libraries -- Wedgwood and Meadowbrook -- also would shut down under the city manager's plan.

Some water fees would also go up slightly. Some after-school programs and donations to nonprofit groups also would be reduced.

City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks complained the budget cuts seemed to target poor people the most.

The City Council will hold a series of public meetings before voting on the new budget Sept. 15.

Click here to read a complete list of the cutbacks.

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