Fort Worth passes budget, 10% tax increase despite pushback from some council members

Harrison Mantas/hmantas@star-telegram.com

The Fort Worth City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to approve a budget that raises taxes and increases spending for police, roads, street cleaning and development services.

Although the tax rate is 2 cents lower than last year, the average homeowner will pay 10.13% more because of increased property values.

Council member Michael Crain, who represents west Fort Worth, wanted to reduce the rate by another 2 cents but his colleagues pushed back, arguing the reduction would defeat the budget’s goal to improve city services amid explosive growth.

Council member Elizabeth Beck, who represents central Fort Worth stretching from downtown to South Hills, said the budget adds funding for six additional police officers to support the Fort Worth Police Department’s HOPE team, which connects residents experiencing homelessness to city services.

She pointed to calls from residents to reduce the number of homeless camps throughout the city, and said the new tax rate does that.

Beck also noted the budget funds 57 new positions in the city’s development services department, which processes building permits for homes and businesses.

She argued that improving that department’s efficiency will make Fort Worth a more friendly place to do business, which in turn will expand the city’s tax base and reduce the tax burden on homeowners.

Council member Alan Blaylock, who represents parts of east and far north Fort Worth, said residents in his district want better public safety, better roads and lower property taxes.

Blaylock, who joined the council in March, made it a centerpiece of his campaign to only vote for the “no-new-revenue” tax rate, which would generate the same revenue in 2023 from properties that were on the tax rolls in 2022.

That rate of 66.6876 cents per $100 of value would have forced the city to cut roughly $42.88 million from its general fund budget, which city manager David Cooke said would force the city to reduce spending on additional police and divert funds intended for repaving city roads and fixing broken street lights.

Council member Leonard Firestone, who represents the Cultural District and far north Fort Worth, empathized with Crain and Blaylock, but said he couldn’t support the property tax reduction without knowing what services would need to be cut.

He said in future budget cycles city staff should provide the council with options for what could be funded with different tax rates in order to help the council better decide how to balance the need for tax relief with the need to deliver more robust services.

Mayor Mattie Parker said she appreciated the work Crain and Blaylock were doing for their constituents, but property tax relief needs to come from either the state legislature or local school districts, which she noted account for the largest portion of residents’ property tax bills.