Fort Worth council to finalize budget Tuesday; cuts could impact Human Rights Commission

The Fort Worth City Council will hold its regular weekly council meeting tomorrow — Tuesday, Sept. 21 — and a final vote of the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget is on the agenda.

The council meets at 7 p.m., at the budget hearing part of the session is No. 13 on what looks like a pretty lengthy agenda. You can go here to see the entire agenda.

Like most other cities — and counties, and states, and the federal government — Fort Worth’s income from property taxes has dipped considerably, thanks to the significant drop in property values that occurred when the real estate market bubble burst. And that has left the City Council struggling to find a way to maintain services without having an huge increase in fees or the tax rate.

Back in August, Fairness Fort Worth posted this notice, explaining that one of the possible budget fixes the council was considering was to “eliminate the Community Relations Department as we know it.” That possibility left the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission with “grave concerns” over the possibility that, although the city has ordinances protecting its LGBT citizens and other minorities from discrimination, the commission’s ability to enforce the ordinance and investigate complaints would be compromised, since the Community Relations Department was the city department that provided support for that purpose.

I’ve gotten no word yet on whether the Community Relations Department is still on the chopping block, but you can go here to read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s article today on what’s happening with the budget.

If you can’t get down to Fort Worth City Hall to watch the proceedings in person, you can keep up with what happens by watching the council meeting streamed live on the Internet here.

—  admin

Oak Lawn Library Friends say budget cuts may lead to wait times of 8 years for some materials

Our old friend P D Sterling sends along word that the Oak Lawn Library Friends will host a town hall meeting this coming Thursday to discuss the potential impact of city budget cuts. According to the OLLF website, which lists Thursday’s meeting as a CALL TO ACTION, these potential impacts include:

• Branch hours will remain the staff but half the staff will lose their jobs
• Due to reduced staffing, programs such as story time, Summer Reading Program, and other planned outreach could be eliminated
• The overall budget vs. two years ago is reduced by 60 percent
• The cuts are so severe that the library will lose accreditation
• Loss of accreditation will make us lose state and federal funding
• The materials budget will be continue to be cut which will mean fewer new materials and longer wait times for materials you want.
• These wait times could be as long as 8 years!

OLLF is urging people to contact council members Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt and to attend upcoming budget town hall meetings hosted by the city. Sterling summarized the situation as follows:

The proposed budget cuts may severely hamper the ability of our library to function; the staff may be reduced to the point that community programs will have to be withdrawn, just to provide core services of book- and media-lending.

Oak Lawn Library Friends have been a dynamic force in making Oak Lawn Library a vital community center, and we have grave concerns that extreme reductions will be short-sighted. If national accreditations are lost, outside grants will no longer be available.

We submit that the citizens of Dallas must call for basic services to be maintained, and talking points will be made available for further meetings held by the City during the next six weeks.

The town hall meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the library, 4100 Cedar Springs. For more info, go here.

—  John Wright