Tarrant County leaders approved a very lean 2024 budget Tuesday after several changes at the last minute were proposed and adopted.
Cuts were made across several departments to see the county shrink the budget by nearly $8 million from the previous fiscal year — the biggest reduction seen in at least a decade.
The budget now stands at $896.6 million and will go into effect on October 1.
As Helen Giese, director of budget and risk management, described it to the Fort Worth Report, cuts were expected this year.
“It was just a matter of five-dollaring it to death all over the place,” Giese said.
County Judge Tim O’Hare was elected earlier this year on the promise that he would aim to lower the tax rate by 20%, which he came 1 cent short of accomplishing.
He has also championed lowered property tax rates and economic growth, as previously covered in The Dallas Express. At a recent State of the County Address, he claimed that the average Tarrant County homeowner would save roughly 22% on their taxes next year.
Yet, deciding where to cut in the recent budget came amid some heavy disagreement.
The 2024 budget had initially passed, but then commissioners returned to vote again on it, and it failed on account of O’Hare and Commissioners Gary Fickes and Manny Ramirez.
At the heart of the issue was the allocation of $150,000 to fund community projects for roads and bridges in Precinct 2, which is represented by Commissioner Alisa Simmons, whereas others were slated to receive between $25,000 and $50,000.
“I think it’s an unfair system,” O’Hare said, according to the Fort Worth Report. “I don’t think that’s how it should go.”
He moved to limit funding for community projects to $50,000 annually. Both the motion and the revised budget then passed 4-1, with Simmons dissenting.
Another sliver was trimmed off the budget through the adoption of a new 10% homestead exemption, which is expected to save the average homeowner around $34 per year with a projected tax bill of $399.48.
Despite the smaller budget, pay raises were included for elected officials and county employees to help reduce turnover.
For instance, at a cost to the taxpayer, O’Hare’s annual salary will jump 3% from $211,895.32 to $217,952.28, while the commissioners’ salaries will increase to $207,952.16 from $201,895.20.
Sheriff Bill Waybourn will see a bump from $211,895 to $218,252.
The county also aims to add 21 new positions, including additional medical and juvenile services staff.