Fort Worth city manager expects city to break even after growth in sales tax revenue

Rising sales tax revenue in Fort Worth could mean the city won’t have to dip into reserve funds next fiscal year.

Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke said Tuesday the city’s sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2015 is exceeding budget estimates.

“If they’re going in the positive direction, then I’m always watching it to make sure it exceeds the budget estimate that we made,” Cooke said. “It tells me whether we’ll have excess revenue at the end of the year, and right now we’re ahead of pace.”

Sales tax revenue makes up about 20 to 25 percent of Fort Worth’s budget, Cooke said. The city’s General Fund, the city’s tax and fee supported budget, for fiscal year 2015 estimated sales tax revenue to total more than $126 million.

Fort Worth has collected more than $660,000 more in sales tax this fiscal year compared to the same timeframe last year. That 7.2 percent increase from last fiscal year is the second largest among Texas’s five biggest cities (Houston’s 8.6 percent increase tops the list).

According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, Fort Worth’s November 2014 sales tax revenue increased more than 10 percent from the same month in 2013.

“Sales tax is cyclical, and each month will be different,” Cooke said. “I’m more interested in this December versus last December as opposed to December versus November.”

That November growth mirrored that of the entire state. Texas sales tax revenue in November 2014 was 10.7 percent higher than November 2013.

For the “past three or four years,” Fort Worth has had to use money in reserves to balance the budget, Cooke said. Since the current budget is based on about $8 million in reserves, Cooke said he wants to use the excess revenue to replenish those accounts.

“We need to get back to a point where we’re not using reserves to balance the budget,” Cooke said. “If we’re $8 million in the hole on using reserves to balance the budget, then I still need $8 million in growth revenue just to break even.”

Cooke said he expects the growth in revenues to achieve that goal.

“That’s been my requirement of the organization,” Cooke said. “We’re not using any reserves next year.”