Streams of numbers and brightly colored charts continue to make their way through the City of Fort Worth as officials discuss the budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
After talking about the proposed 2017 capital budget the week before, City Manager David Cooke came back to the city council Aug. 9 to talk about how to spend a proposed operating budget of $1.65 billion.
“This budget continues to focus on public safety and our neighborhoods and transparency and still deliver the services that we need while managing to the growth that we’re having,” Mayor Betsy Price said.
The proposed $1.65 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2017 is a 2.47 percent increase from last year’s budget of $1.61 billion. Of the $1.65 billion, more than half ($639 million) would go toward the city’s general fund, which pays for police, fire, library, economic development and other departments. Of that, public safety would receive $402.9 million.
The spending plan for public safety includes replacing the police department’s aging helicopter with a new one, as well as adding nearly 40 new positions to the police department.
The proposed budget adds staff to other departments as well, such as 24 positions for the fire department and five positions for Planning and Development to help deal with the growing queue of building projects.
In addition, Cooke talked about the budget for the Crime Control and Prevention District (CCPD), a separate fund set aside for a citywide crime prevention initiative. The proposed budget of about $74.9 million is about a 13 percent decrease from last fiscal year’s budget of about $86 million. Terry Hanson, assistant director of the city’s performance and budget department, said the decrease is due to last year’s budget allocating more money toward facility projects such as the new sixth police division. The CCPD board is scheduled to meet Aug. 16 and Aug. 25 to discuss the budget before sending it back to the city council for final approval on Sept. 13.
As part of the city’s 2017 capital budget, Cooke is proposing a 2-cent cut in the property tax rate, from 85.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 83.5 cents. The proposal comes in light of property values increasing nearly 9 percent this year. Price said she’d like for property owners to not have to pay more taxes due to the increased valuations.
Councilman Jungus Jordan asked the city manager to use future budget meetings to explain how the city came up with the 2-cent rate cut.
“You didn’t just pick it out of the air,” Jordan told Cooke. “We need to understand where that came from.”
The city council voted Aug. 9 to start the process of lowering the property tax rate, with plans to hold public hearings on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. during the council’s regular meeting. The council’s final vote on the tax rate is scheduled for Sept. 13.
HOUSING FUNDS ALLOCATED
With $10.1 million received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the city council voted unanimously on Aug. 9 to approve an action plan that outlines how the money will be distributed in 2016-2017.
HUD’s $10.1 million grant is an increase from the $9.8 million grant HUD provided for 2015-2016. The grant helps support the city’s housing programs and activities. The funds come from the federal. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG).
Here’s an overview of how some of the funding will be broken down:
$6.4 million from CDBG, plus $130,000 of CDBG income
• A good chunk of the funding ($2.1 million) will go toward housing program services such as the Priority Repair Program and Cowtown Brush-Up. Other funding will go toward agencies such as the Tarrant County Housing Partnership ($116,000), Cenikor Foundation ($110,000) and Girls Inc. of Tarrant County ($110,000).
$2.1 million from HOME, plus $1.2 million of estimated HOME income
• The city’s Neighborhood Services department estimates it will earn about $1.2 million from houses sold through the HOME program. That money will go toward other HOME projects, Neighborhood Services Director Aubrey Thagard said.
• In addition, $960,236 will go to the Homebuyers Assistance Program.
$1 million from HOPWA
• Most funding will go toward nonprofit service providers such as the AIDS Outreach Center Inc. ($515,710) and Tarrant County Samaritan Housing Inc. ($485,844).
$570,031 from ESG
• Most funding ($527,279) will go toward nonprofit service providers such as DRC, formerly Day Resource Center for the Homeless ($141,092), the Salvation Army ($116,360) and Presbyterian Night Shelter ($100,275).
• American Airlines incentive change: The city council approved a change to its incentive agreement with American Airlines regarding the airline’s Integrated Operations Center at 4700 American Blvd., which opened last year. American had two incentives from the city – a one-year tax abatement that’s supposed to be granted in 2016 and an economic development agreement consisting of 14 annual grants beginning in 2018. To qualify for the tax break, American needed to spend at least $55 million in real personal property improvements and at least $33 million on business personal property. But when city staff did an audit of the project this year, they found that American spent $69 million on property improvements, exceeding the minimum, but $24.5 million on business personal property, falling short of the minimum and making American ineligible for the tax break. To mitigate this, American will receive 15 grants starting in 2017 as part of the revised agreement.
• Park Vista Wal-Mart: The city council extended the completion deadline for the 182,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter planned for Park Vista Boulevard. Wal-Mart has an economic development agreement with the city, approved in 2014. Originally, Wal-Mart had until June 30, 2016, to build its store and four lanes of Park Vista Boulevard between Ray White Road and Keller Hicks Road. But due to delays the city faced in acquiring the right-of-way needed for the road project, the construction on the store was delayed as well, according to a city staff report. Thus Wal-Mart requested an extension for its completion deadline to correlate with the road project. According to Wal-Mart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield, construction on the Wal-Mart store and road improvements is expected to begin in the fall, with both projects finishing by spring 2018.