Fort Worth will continue to invest in much-needed capital improvements while keeping the property tax rate at its current level despite today’s tight economic and financial conditions, Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke told the City Council Tuesday.
Cooke is recommending the Council continue the current property tax rate of 74.75 cents per $100 assessed valuation to fund city operations and services. “Keeping the current rate continues the city’s current level of capital investment,” he said.
Residents can comment on the recommended tax rate at public hearings on Sept. 1 and 15. The Council will approve a tax rate, as well as the fiscal 2021 Capital and Operating Budgets, on Sept. 22.
Cooke on Tuesday showed Council a five-year look at the Capital Improvement Plan, which calls for evaluating infrastructure maintenance and investment based on equity and continuing neighborhood improvements.
The fiscal 2021 $394.3 million Capital Improvement Plan includes general projects and those at the city’s airports, convention and Will Rogers Memorial centers, and water and stormwater improvements. Fort Worth’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
“Think about our impact on the community,” Cooke said. “We are spending $300 million to $400 million in capital every year. That’s a significant amount of money. The positive piece is we’re keeping our emphasis on infrastructure investment and the maintenance of that infrastructure.”
The city plans to spend $48.4 million on pay-as-you-go maintenance projects in fiscal 2021, an increase of $1.35 million from fiscal 2020. The additional money is mostly going to street and traffic light improvements, and $650,000 for sidewalk upgrades to improve access to transit.
Capital projects already underway include the Golden Triangle and Reby Cary Youth libraries, two fire stations, a south side police station, the north side animal shelter and some new parks and trails. Of the $399.5 million voter approved 2018 bond program, $124 million has been committed or spent on those projects, Cooke said.
Of the 74.75-cent property tax, 59.5 cents goes toward operations and maintenance, and the remaining 15.25 cents to debt service. In fiscal 2021, the city is budgeting $556.8 million in property tax revenue, a 3 percent increase, or $15.5 million, from fiscal 2020. By comparison, the city saw a $48 million increase from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020.
Starting in 2022, property tax revenue is projected to remain flat for a couple years, or even decline. Sales tax and other revenues should increase, but conservatively at about 4 percent, Cooke said.
The City Council adopted a $771.9 million fiscal 2020 general fund budget, but declining sales tax and drops in other revenues necessitated cutting $23 million to balance the current budget.
Councilmembers will receive the proposed fiscal 2021 general fund budget on Aug. 11. The general fund pays to operate city services and facilities. Property and sales taxes fund 80 percent of the general fund budget. Fort Worth’s budget includes several other funds, including debt service and those that operate the water and wastewater utility, airports and special projects, among them. The city’s fiscal 2020 operating budget was more than $1.9 billion.