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Voters Will Decide The Fate Of The Sales Tax That Helps Fund Fort Worth Police

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Christopher Connelly
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KERA News

The half-cent sales tax that generates tens of millions of dollars for the Fort Worth Police Department is on the ballot in this month’s election. Voters will have the power to end the tax or renew it for another 10 years.

The fate of the Crime Control and Prevention District tax is on the ballot as Proposition A for the July 14 election. Early voting goes until July 10.

The CCPD was established in 1995 in response to high crime rates, according to the city. It provides more funding on top of the $267 million in the current police budget. According to the city, the tax generated about $80 million in the 2019 fiscal year. 

The tax was renewed for five-year terms in 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2014. However, it has come under renewed scrutiny with the racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd. Fort Worth protest group Enough is Enough is calling for an end to police funding from the CCPD.

Sgt. Manny Ramirez, the president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said the funding is vital to keeping the city safe. He pointed to the community programs it funds, like positions for neighborhood police officers who attend community meetings.

“Calls for defunding the police departments around the nation, those should not project onto Fort Worth, because we are very, very different and we’re very unique,” he said. “We’ve done more with less for a long, long time.”

Some have criticized the CCPD for funding programs they say have nothing to do with crime prevention. Equipment replacement, like getting new vehicles and motorcycles, takes up the biggest chunk of the funding.

Ramirez said equipment upgrades are necessary for crime prevention, too.

“Whenever you look at the tools of the job, the tools of policing, the more police vehicles that we can purchase, the more officers we can put out on the streets, the more recruit classes that we can fund, those all go towards making our community safer,” he said.

The CCPD also gives 6% of its funding to community groups with similar goals. One group that got funding is the domestic violence prevention nonprofit Cheryl’s Voice, founded by LaTasha Jackson-McDougle.

Jackson-McDougle said at first, she was skeptical about getting rid of the CCPD tax.

“I was kind of like, ‘What the heck is wrong with you people?’ We need this, all these organizations need this,” she said.

Now, she said she wants to see it voted down, reworked and put back on the ballot in November.

“The police department already has, like, $267 million. This is just saying, no, you can’t have the extra $80 million. We need to sit down and figure out what more can we do with this 80 million,” Jackson-McDougle said. “Not saying they can’t have some money, but $80 million is a lot.”

She said she wants to see more money going to social workers and nonprofits. Some should also go towards police training and mental health resources for officers themselves, she added.

City officials have said they will look to move around some of the CCPD funding in the upcoming budget cycle, to give more money to community groups, as well as the police department’s mental health crisis intervention teams.

At a City Council work session in June, Mayor Betsy Price said to expect “a lot of redirection of those funds.”

“You have to remember that if we don’t pass CCPD, we do not have that money in our budget. If it fails, the money just goes away,” Price said, addressing the public.

If the CCPD gets voted down, its current term will end on September 30, but the city can collect the tax through December. The tax could be put back on the ballot in November, according to a city spokesperson.