Bud Kennedy

A DFW suburb plans to raise taxes 18 percent. And guess who agrees?

Wildlife is thriving at Boys Ranch Park Lake in Bedford thanks to ‘the duck ladies’

Two years after the makeover of the Boys Ranch Park lake, problems are bubbling to the surface, and the city is making repairs. Residents want to make sure that turtles, ducks and other wildlife continue to live in a good environment.
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Two years after the makeover of the Boys Ranch Park lake, problems are bubbling to the surface, and the city is making repairs. Residents want to make sure that turtles, ducks and other wildlife continue to live in a good environment.

Property tax bills always go up, but nowhere quite like in Bedford.

That cash-strapped city’s council will vote Tuesday on whether to raise the average city tax bill by $174 — nearly 18 percent, if not more.

Not only that — one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s all-time fiercest budget hawks says she’s for it. In fact, she’d raise taxes another $37.

“I am going to urge the hiring of more police and firemen,” said Dorothy McWhorter, 85, for 40 years a leader and organizer of repeated petitions, rollback elections and city campaigns that have kept Bedford cheap, but at a long-term cost.

“We had to do that, because the council was spending money back then like drunken sailors,” she said.

“But now we’re 11 police and firemen short. We’ve got bills. Things are coming apart because the city’s playing catchup.”

Much of the tax increase is to pay off debt from the city’s $70 million parks and recreation bond election last year. The 68-acre Bedford Boys Ranch park is one of the largest and nicest greenbelts in Northeast Tarrant County, and Bedford plans to upgrade it.

But Bedford is raising the tax rate even as home appraisals also go up — a double whammy. If the city didn’t raise anyone’s tax bill and could absorb the bond debt, the tax rate could be cut from 52 cents to 48 cents per $100 in home value.

Council members will discuss a rate as high as 58 cents.

“This city has chosen to be conservative in how we impact residents with our tax rate,” City Manager Brian Bosshardt said Saturday.

“But every decision has consequences. This city is living out some consequences with our inability to fund basic needs.”

Forty years ago, when Southlake barely had more than a flashing yellow light and a Dairy Queen, Bedford was the boom town of Northeast Tarrant County. Banks, hospitals and businesses went up around the interchange of two major state highways.

But while cities like Euless, Grapevine and North Richland Hills kept stable leadership and continue to grow, Bedford’s fervent bickering and unsettled politics have stymied growth and success.

In 2005, after McWhorter led a voter-initated tax rollback, city leaders shut down the public library for several days until a North Richland Hills insurance company made a donation.

Last year, dozens of residents protested the planned opening of a brewhouse and brewpub. Even now, some residents are fighting any plan for urban loft apartments. Yet Bedford badly needs young, upscale residents and shoppers (and sales tax dollars).

New City Councilman Dan Cogan ran saying he wouldn’t raise taxes, but he said his “jaw dropped” when he learned more about the city budget.

“It’s one thing when you’re campaigning, and another thing when you look at the numbers,” he said: “We haven’t added a police officer since 2001 or a firefighter since 1998.”

Now he supports a tax increase, mostly to pay off the park bonds, but not as high as some other council members support, he said.

Bosshardt is recommending the tax increase from 52 cents to 56.1862 but not to 58, which might incur another rollback election.

“We are built out and we are not adding population,” he said: “The next stage for us is redevelopment.”

McWhorter, the tax watchdog who led the last rollback, said another would not pass.

“Not for 2 cents,” she said, meaning the 58-cent tax rate instead of 56.1862. The average tax bill would go up another $211 instead of $174.

“People are not going to tear this town apart again over 2 cents,” she said.

This is not your grandfather’s Bedford.

Bud Kennedy 817-390-7538 @BudKennedy
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