Fort Worth approves largest tax rate decrease in decades, but it won’t lower your taxes

The Fort Worth city council voted 8-3 Tuesday to set the city’s 2024 tax rate at 67.25 cents per $100 of value.

It’s the largest decrease in the city’s tax rate since at least 1990, however, it’s not enough to offset increasing property values.

Council members Alan Blaylock, Michael Crain and Charles Lauersdorf voted against the new tax rate with Blaylock advocating for the “no-new revenue” tax rate, which would generate the same amount of revenue in 2024 from properties that were on the tax rolls in 2023.

“It is my position that the rate of government spending, as proposed, is unsustainable for the long-term fiscal health of the city,” Blaylock said. He praised the city’s spending on public safety and roads, but said more needed to be done to lower the tax rate.

The 2024 rate is roughly 5.6% lower than the previous year, however, property values rose roughly 12% in the last year, according to a city council presentation.

A homeowner with a house valued at $350,000 with a homestead exemption will pay $1,883 in property taxes to the city in 2024.

Tarrant County, the Fort Worth school district, Tarrant County College, and the John Peter Smith Hospital District all set rates that would lower the amount the average property owner would pay.

Several residents pushed the city of Fort Worth to do the same, arguing property tax increases are putting a strain on working families.

“I drive a 16-year-old car. My husband drives a truck from the 90s. Where do you want me to cut back?” asked Wedgewood resident Hollie Plemons.

She argued the average resident doesn’t care that the council is lowering the city’s property tax rate.

“They only care about the bill that comes in the mail,” she said.

Lauersdorf empathized with residents comparing the city’s tax rate to the county and the school district, however, he noted the city has a larger responsibility when it comes to the day-to-day services residents rely on.

“If my house is burning down, I’m not calling the school district,” he said. Still he said the city could do more in future budget cycles to reduce property taxes.

The budget calls for adding over 106 new employees for the Police Department and 76 new positions in the Fire Department. Most of the new police positions will be in the patrol division, but the city also proposes increasing staff for crisis intervention teams and homeless services units.

The city is also adding $4 million to the neighborhood improvement program, which directs city funds to improve safety, roads, and increase economic development in a targeted area of the city. Fort Worth usually targets these funds to one neighborhood every year, but this increase will enable the city to do two neighborhoods.

The city of Fort Worth is lowering its rate more than its peer cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said city spokesperson Valerie Colapret in an email to the Star-Telegram.

Of the top 10 largest cities in DFW, only McKinney has a larger rate decrease, according to a city of Fort Worth report.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker argued the rate is needed to address issues with public safety, fixing roads and investments in programs to address homelessness and illegal dumping.

“The same way you’re seeing an increase in buying milk at the grocery store right now for your children, those same city services are increasingly more expensive,” Parker said.

She noted the no new revenue rate would force $40 million in cuts to the city budget. She noted the rate would force a reduction in the part of the tax rate that goes to paying city debts, which would make it harder for the city to borrow money for future bond projects.

“These are hard decisions to make and I really appreciate the leadership on this council,” Parker said.