Fort Worth voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to extend for 10 years a half-cent sales tax that provides $80 million a year to the police department.
Fort Worth has doubled in size since 1995 when city voters first passed the so-called “crime tax.”
At the time, it was designed to fight a violent crime wave that was among the highest in the country.
"It's the reason why we've been able to drive crime down 63% while our population has grown 93%,” said Fort Worth Police Officers Association president Manny Ramirez.
He argued the police department still needs the money, which accounts for a quarter of its overall budget. The rest comes from the city’s general fund.
"I can't imagine what the effects would be,” Ramirez said. “I mean it would be detrimental to our ability to fight crime, it would be detrimental to our ability to keep our citizens safe and we're very concerned about it."
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But now, amid widespread protests and calls to defund the police nationwide, the tax is facing opposition like never before.
Critics said the money would be better spent on things like public transportation and mental health counselors.
"We actually are encouraging voters to vote no,” Fort Worth NAACP president Estella Williams said.
She said she wants more accountability but does not want to defund the police.
"We're not saying that funds are not needed,” Williams said. “We're just saying let's slice the pie a little different. Let's look at who's being a part of the slicing of the pie. Let's be inclusive."
Ramirez said he's all for more input.
"It's subject to citizen input,” he said. “So the citizens can, every single year during the budget cycle, approach their council members and say, ‘Hey, we would like to look at this community program.’”
The crime tax has always passed overwhelmingly in years past.
But it’s never faced opposition like this year, including an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"And it might pass this time,” Williams said. “However, I hope that it will get the attention of those decision-makers that there were people out in the community who tried to make a difference."
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Many people have already voted early.