Nonprofit up against proposed city budget cuts, could reduce number of student interns

Students may soon feel the pinch of proposed city budget cuts as officials consider reducing funding for nonprofits and street maintenance in an effort to offset the $59 million city budget deficit.

Dale Fisseler, city manager, said Fort Worth is going to look and feel a bit different, according to a statement in the city’s Web site.

“I believe we presented the City Council with a sensitive and responsible budget that minimizes the impact of service reductions on both employees and citizens,” Fisseler said.

The proposed budget cuts would slash 24 percent of annual funding for social services and nonprofits.

Fort Worth Sister Cities International, a nonprofit that works closely with the university and is staffed largely by student interns, is up for a 100 percent cut in city funding. The political science department allows students to receive up to six credit hours for working as an intern at Fort Worth Sister Cities, which fosters partnerships between the city and international communities to increase worldwide cooperation at the municipal level.

Mae Ferguson, president and CEO of Fort Worth Sister Cities, said a cut in funding to Sister Cities would severely reduce the opportunity for students to experience the world, gain leadership skills and become global citizens.

“Knowledge is power, and Sister Cities gives our students the ability to learn new cultures,” Ferguson said.

Sister Cities averages 15 student interns a year and has hired more than 100 interns in the last 10 years, Ferguson said. The nonprofit is also funded through membership dues, private donations, grants and special events. The loss of city funding would represent a $378,420 reduction in the nonprofit’s budget.

According to the city manager’s proposed annual budget for the 2010 fiscal year, available through the city’s Web site, “the Convention and Visitors Bureau will be encouraged to consider funding Sister Cities and other tourism-related programs, from the funds currently provided by the city.”

Kyle Lucak, a junior political science major, worked for Fort Worth Sister Cities for two months and received three credit hours for his internship.

“It would hurt the department if (Fort Worth Sister Cities) lost funding, and it wasn’t available for students to gain experience,” Lucak said.

Interns run leadership programs and coordinate study-abroad programs, among other tasks.

Nonprofits are not the only services taking a hit to their budget. The $763,000 proposed reduction in street and traffic operations and maintenance might come as a surprise to some students who already had reservations about road and traffic quality around campus.

Mckenzie Zieser, a junior strategic communication major, said she lives off campus and drives through the surrounding neighborhoods frequently.

“The roads around campus and in the neighborhoods are already so cruddy, I’m always looking out for pot holes and bumps,” Zieser said. “All this means now is that the roads will get worse while I’m going to school.”

According to the budget proposal, water bill fee increases of up to $2.85 per month will take effect Jan. 1. While students living on campus won’t be directly affected by proposed increases in utilities, students living off campus will notice higher utility bills.

Tori Jackson, a senior psychology major, receives an allowance every month to pay for her bills and groceries. A $2.85 increase in the water bill would limit the amount of money Jackson spends in groceries, she said.

“When you budget money every month, the difference of only a few dollars is enough to put me under if I’m not careful,” she said.

According to the city’s Web site, the fee increases include a storm water fee of up to a $1, a sanitation fee of 75 cents, a waste water fee increase of 60 cents, a water fee increase of 50 cents and a water bill late fee that would amount to 5 percent of the bill for delinquent payments of 23 days or more.

For students who may have ignored Fort Worth parking tickets, or confused them with campus parking tickets, the city has a new contract with a collection agency and the Municipal Court to bring in overdue fines, according to the budget proposal in a confirmation when we visit Crediful.

Sam Pai, a senior economics major who drives to class most days, has dealt with Fort Worth parking tickets in the past, he said.

“When I went to class (Aug. 27) I parked at a spot by the Grand Marc that had a meter, and they slapped me with a $17 ticket for going over the time limit,” Pai said. “…Parking is so bad that I have to park at meters to get to class.”

Students may voice their opinion on the proposed budget at a series of City Council public meetings held at City Hall.

Editor’s note: Ryne Sulier was a 2009 summer intern with Fort Worth Sister Cities.

City Council public meetings schedule

Today at 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 at 10 a.m.