Editorials

It’s hard for Fort Worth to overlook having lost $52.6 million

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Street work will be stepped up in Fort Worth with money found from previous bond programs.
Street work will be stepped up in Fort Worth with money found from previous bond programs. Star-Telegram

Let’s be clear: There was precious little good news in Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council discussion about the city staff having “found” $52.6 million to spend.

Sure, it’s great to have funds to complete bond projects dating back to 2004 and to cover construction cost hyperinflation on projects planned as recently as 2014. Councilwoman Gyna Bivens called it “like Christmas almost at City Hall.”

But that’s overshadowed by so much money having gone missing in the first place.

It’s all from bonds and certificates of obligation sold by the city, and it has to be repaid with interest.

The fact that it now can be used as it was supposed to be simply gets us back to break-even.

What remains is a deficit of trust in City Hall’s ability to handle money.

It helps that the staff, over a period of several months, was able to straighten out its own bookkeeping problems and find this money.

Alarm bells went off last fall as the staff installed new financial software. They warned the council that they might not be able to account for tens of millions of dollars.

It’s good that they were able to turn that around.

The staff also says the new software contains stricter accounting procedures that won’t let the same problems happen again.

And a relatively small portion of the money, $1.7 million, will be used to help pay consultants to come up with accurate cost estimates — inflation and all — for projects to be included an expected 2018 bond election. That’s a good idea.

“We shouldn’t have been in this position,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “I don’t want to see us digging this hole again.”

Neither do Fort Worth taxpayers.

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