Fort Worth

Fort Worth has a new tax rate, but not one that will help transit at the moment

Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, second from right, asked for council support to put property tax revenue toward transit. The council voted on a fiscal 2018 property tax rate and budget that doesn’t include those dollars.
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, second from right, asked for council support to put property tax revenue toward transit. The council voted on a fiscal 2018 property tax rate and budget that doesn’t include those dollars. jlmarshall@star-telegram

After a couple of weeks of trying to land on a property tax rate, the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday decided on one, which means some homeowners’ city tax bills are going down.

The City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday night to approve a $1.7 billion budget and adopted a tax rate of 80.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for the 2018 budget year, which begins Oct. 1. Because the new tax rate produces a revenue increase for the city, the council also approved a resolution to accept the money. Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray did not vote on the Police Department portion of the budget, because her husband works for the department.

Under the new rate, if your home value stayed the same at $200,000, your bill will go down $60 a year on the city’s portion of the bill. Chances are, however, your appraisal went up. Tarrant County property appraisals went up an average 11 percent this year.

That vote came after supporters of an earlier proposal to put some money from the general fund toward transit failed because Councilmen Cary Moon of District 4 and Jungus Jordan of District 6 didn’t show up for a special public hearing Friday. Moon deliberately didn’t show because he opposed the plan. He said he has another one in the works.

Jordan said Tuesday afternoon that he was unable to rearrange a family commitment he made six weeks prior to the meeting being scheduled. Three other council members also had previously made plans and could not be there.

As a result, the public hearing was not held for a lack of a quorum, and the proposal died.

About two dozen transit supporters showed up Tuesday night and got their word in. Some took Moon to task.

Allyson Baumeister, chair of the 2,000-business member Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, had praise for the budget, which increases city services and yet lowers the tax rate, but said a recent chamber survey found that people are ready to move on the transit issue. The chamber is ready to throw its support behind a countywide discussion about transit and finding funding for it, she said.

“We must be able to move our commuters to their workplaces and visitors to our world-class attractions with a world-class system that includes ample roadways without congestion, numerous bus routes and convenient rail service,” Baumeister said. “The stakes are high, the will is strong, the time is now.”

Scott Mahaffey, chair of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board, said, “We do not take transit seriously in this town. Transit doesn’t happen overnight. You have to make the commitment that transit is important.”

Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, who pushed for transit funding in the upcoming budget, said she is impressed by the public engagement over the issue. “Do not be discouraged, and continue to advocate for transit,” she said.

In the meantime, Mayor Betsy Price and some of the other council members called on the city manager to put together a task force on transit soon and provide a 90-day report after the group is put together, as well as to look for savings in the budget throughout the year that could be used for transit.

The council was to have voted earlier this month on a tax rate and budget. During that process, Zadeh pushed to set the tax rate at 81.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, with the extra revenue of about $5.7 million put toward transit. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, known as the T, said it would have used the additional revenue to expand bus services on the city’s west side.

The council seemed to have reached a compromise on 81 cents per $100, which would have given the T about $2.7 million.

Ironically, the council Tuesday night also approved its eight appointments to the T’s board. They include the reappointment of Neftali Ortiz, Scott Mahaffey, Dennis Dunkins, Jeff King and Jeff Davis. Two new city appointments are Louis “Charles” Edmonds Jr. and Ray Taylor.

Tarrant County commissioners appoint three members to the board.

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