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Fort Worth's Proposed Budget Keeps Police Funding Intact, Prepares For Recession Stress

In this photo, there is a large gray concrete building with the words "CITY HALL" on the front.
City of Fort Worth
Fort Worth City Hall.

Fort Worth residents got their first look at next year's budget proposal on Tuesday, and City Manager David Cooke said the city should brace for a dip in revenues.

The proposed $1.9 billion total budget is essentially at the same level as the current one, but it prepares the city for the leaner years Cooke anticipates as the COVID-19 recession wears on.

“We intend to keep the hiring freeze in place, at least through the coming fall, winter,” Cooke told the City Council on Tuesday. “We think we have to reduce the number of overall positions."

He's proposing a cut of a net total of 50 city jobs.

That number does not include the 70 employees coming off the city payroll in October, when the Fort Worth Botanic Garden switches to nonprofit management.

Cooke said most of the positions he wants to put on the chopping block are already vacant, but he believes about a dozen employees’ jobs would be at risk.

“And it's our commitment to work with those employees, if there are other vacancies in the city,” Cooke said.

He estimated there are hundreds of vacant city jobs.

Police Funding Stays Intact

The budget does not reduce police funding. Even with a $4 million drop in the budget for the Crime Control and Prevention District, the half-cent sales tax that generates tens of millions of dollars for the department, there will be an increase overall, Cooke said.

Police funding is a contentious issue for cities across the country, as activists call for a redistribution of city funds away from police. Dallas’s proposed budget also avoids cuts to the police department.

Cooke’s budget would put more money towards community crime-prevention programs, and it calls for an expansion of the police department's mental health crisis intervention team.

A recent report from an outside panel of policing experts describes the department’s current mental health program as "wholly inadequate."

There will be a more in-depth presentation on police funding on Friday, featuring police Chief Ed Kraus. The city council vote on the budget is scheduled for Sept. 22.

Community members will be able to weigh in throughout August and September. The city’s website has a list of scheduled meetings and says whether public comment is allowed at each one.

Whatever is in the final budget, it will go into effect on Oct. 1 of this year and end on Sept. 30, 2021.

Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.