I don’t want to sound the alarm too soon; but the road to municipal bankruptcy usually begins with small things, like the city’s recreational facilities facing budget shortfalls and closure. Unfortunately, Fort Worth, like many other municipalities around the country has suffered tax revenue declines caused by the battered economy and now they may need to close the city’s swimming pools–indefinitely.
Most of the city’s swimming pools will be closed next summer, and the Parks Department doesn’t have the money to build new ones, not even with revenue from natural gas drilling, officials said Tuesday. The pools were at the center of budget discussions this summer. Besides closing pools, the City Council voted to eliminate dozens of positions in the budget year that began in October to make up for a big drop in tax revenue.

While the city has dreams of a building modern pools with slides, water rides and “splash pads,” the reality is that when a city begins shutting down its public recreational facilities that can often be a sign that they are at least facing the road to bankruptcy, if they are not already on it. When the crisis first began to gather steam, we talked about how the foreclosure crisis would hit municipalities hard.

With a decrease in tax revenues (banks don’t pay property taxes on foreclosed properties) many cities would need to cut back on services, some of the critical. Already, the nation is witnessing a surge in municipal bankruptcy and many cities who have not filed bankruptcy yet are warning that if the economy does not improve they may be forced to file bankruptcy. ‘

Could Fort Worth be next on the bankruptcy list? While closing a swimming pool is not life threatening, it can be threatening to the quality of life enjoyed by residents. If the city does not find a way to shore up its coffers we could be facing more cutbacks (libraries, police, fire safety etc.) and eventually the threat of bankruptcy.