The City of Ft. Worth has released its proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which begins October 1st. With a $73 million deficit, there are many cutbacks.
“All of these are very, very tough calls for this council,” Mayor Moncrief told Dallas News. “It is going to test our political courage.”
But how much of a challenge is it for those in the upper class, including Moncrief? The great triumph of this budget is that it doesn’t raise taxes. The areas in which the city is cutting back are not detrimental to the upper class, but the lower and middle classes. This issue hits home on a personal level.
As someone who grew up in Ft. Worth, I have fond memories of the library, parks, and museums. When I became a parent, I was thrilled to be able to raise my children here so that they could enjoy the same. Like many others, my husband and I are on a tight budget. Since this doesn’t leave a lot to spend on entertainment, we depend on the free and low-cost opportunities that make Ft. Worth seem like a small community. When you look at the proposed budget, you can see that the majority of cutbacks are in these very areas.
One of the most surprising proposals is to merge the Libraries Department with Parks & Community Services. Aside from the fact that the two are seemingly unrelated, this allows for a number of people to be “eliminated,” including the curator of Log Cabin Village and its staff. Several library positions and programs will disappear too. To fund the opening of the Northwest Branch, the city intends to close three other branches. While this might make sense on paper, a look at a map will reveal that the new branch is in Saginaw, but the three being closed are located in poorer areas of Ft. Worth.
We visit the library frequently and depend on it as a resource for books, movies, music, and other programs. We also enjoy visiting Log Cabin Village. The people there are always warm and friendly. We will miss them very much. The Botanic Gardens are also seeing cutbacks. Much of the maintenance will be eliminated, leaving the care of the gardens up to volunteers. Fall and spring, you can often find my children playing tag in the garden while I set up for a picnic. We always take Easter photos there. Unfortunately, as the garden falls into disrepair, photos will be only a reminder of the past.
I also fear for safety in Ft. Worth. The budget proposes a cutback in areas that are downright frightening – eliminating funding for freeway light maintenance and cutting funding for health inspections. Perhaps the most frightening is the elimination of a subsidy for Ambulance Authority. This means that if I call 911 for an ambulance, I’ll be redirected to an unregulated third-party, wait longer, and pay more.
One of the few revenues that has been proposed is $6.8 million from gas wells. In addition to allowing urban drilling, which has many times been opposed by citizens, this only puts more money in the pockets of those like Mayor Moncrief, who have already profited from it.
The City Manager makes it seems as if these changes are unavoidable. He cites similar changes in the past three years’ budgets. If cutting jobs, consolidating departments, and not raising taxes worked, why is the deficit greater each year? Citizens are give the opportunity to suggest solutions at public hearings on September 14th and 21st. My suggestion is this: cut back the salary of the those who are making profits while the rest of Ft. Worth suffers. How much is budgeted for the salary of Mayor and City Manager?
This is not the Ft. Worth in which I grew up. I don’t know what has happened to remove us this far from where we used to be, but I am crushed. This proposed budget is intended to be “sustainable” but I can only hope that is not the case. If there is no hope for improvement, I fear this city which used to be a community will become another chunk of concrete on the highway.
FY2011 Proposed Budget