Fort Worth

Will voters be asked to further fund public transit in May? One councilman hopes so

Passengers board the TRE train at the Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth.
Passengers board the TRE train at the Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth.

Councilman Cary Moon, who received a lukewarm reception last week when he suggested letting voters decide the issue of additional funding for public transit, is now taking his platform to a special Fort Worth Transportation Authority board meeting Wednesday.

Moon and Councilman Brian Byrd are on the agenda to talk about a proposed ballot referendum on transit funding.

Byrd said Monday he was unaware of that but did say he and Moon spoke with Scott Mahaffey, authority board chairman, and Paul Ballard, transportation authority president, after last week’s council meeting about a “what if” of a referendum.

Ballard said he “personally spoke to both men” about continuing that conversation with the board “so we can understand.” The board can take no action on the issue.

“I’m encouraged by the fact it’s being discussed,” Ballard said. “We really want to pursue this.”

Moon said he’s now proposing that a quarter-cent of the city’s 1-cent sales tax that goes into the general fund be moved for transit funding.

This comes after the council last week heard from City Manager David Cooke about possible funding options using the city’s 1-cent sale tax or the half-cent Crime Control and Prevention District tax. Cooke steered the council away from tapping into the property tax rate to fund transit. The transportation authority already receives a half-cent sales tax.

Moon acknowledges that if a quarter-cent is approved, the general fund would take about a $39 million hit. The general fund pays for police and fire services, community services and city operations.

“There’s been plenty of conversation. I want the public vote,” Moon said.

Time is ticking on that option. The only way it can get on the May 5 ballot is if Moon and one other council member, in this case likely Byrd, submit a council proposal to do so. The entire council would need to vote on the proposal and right now there may not be enough support.

There appears to be no support in using the sales tax that goes to the crime control district either.

“We want the timing to be right,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “We cannot jeopardize the city budget or city services.”

Adding the question to the May ballot must be approved by Feb. 16, or 78 days before the election, according to the city secretary’s office.

The council is scheduled to discuss legal issues concerning the allocation of local sales tax in executive session Tuesday.