Interning journalist Sarah Perry wrote this blog post:
Most folks knew budget cutting was going to be brutal in Fort Worth, but when the city council got the proposed financial game plan on Tuesday evening, the realities in it were painful for many.
City Manager Dale Fisseler choked up as he presented the steep proposed cuts, which include cutting 200 jobs, closing libraries and pools, reducing arts funding, and leaving a lot more potholes unfilled.
Her colleague Carter Burdette suggested that the real problem was that not enough balancing — and painful cutting — had been done in past years. He said city leaders have been “overindulgent” in the past and now must pay the price. “We’ve got to have the backbone to say some things are not possible,” he said.
At least one group, however, had reason to leave the session smiling. Homeless folks and their advocates heard that the city’s ambitious, year-old plan to attack homelessness could be saved from a threatened 30 percent cut in funding. Fisseler proposed that the council divert about half of its increased tax income from Barnett Shale drilling for the 2009-2010 fiscal year to help cover the overall budget shortfall — including $1 million that would go to Directions Home, as the homeless project is called.
Fisseler’s suggestion is that $6.7 million in mineral tax dollars be redirected to the city’s general fund, rather than going into a trust fund for future projects, as the council had planned.
Other proposed budget cuts, and the funds that would be saved include:
— Closing the Wedgewood and Meadowbrook branch libraries, $813,194;
— Eliminating late-night programs for youths at community centers, $577,041;
— Reducing after school programs at community centers, $188,522;
— Closing all city pools except Forest Park, $444,961;
— Closing the Day Labor Center, $271,462;
— Increasing employee health care premiums by 12 percent ;
— Raising residential water bills by an average of about $3 a month.
Council member Kathleen Hicks was clearly unhappy. “We are balancing this budget on the backs of the working poor,” she said.
When Fisseler began to show emotion, Mayor Mike Moncrief acknowledged that there’s reason for folks to be upset. “Numbers are easy to deal with, but each number has a face, a life, and a family,” he said.
Four public hearings will be held over the next month, so citizens can weigh in on the proposals. The council is due to adopt the budget Sept 15.