As a financially irresponsible North Texas local government proposes raising taxes, a coalition of the right and the left is demanding fiscal responsibility and a forensic audit.

On September 20, elected board members of the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) will vote on a property tax increase. If passed, the average homeowner’s property tax bills from the district will be 7.5 percent higher than last year, and 143 percent higher than in 2013, according to data from the Tarrant Appraisal District.

“We property homeowners are consumers, and we are not getting our money’s worth,” David Lambertsen of Fort Worth said upon learning of the proposed tax hike. “Seems to be special interest investors are reaping the rewards of tax increases.”

TRWD is infamous for its involvement with Panther Island, the $1.2 billion real estate redevelopment boondoggle disguised as flood control. The project—which has dragged on for more than a decade with exploding costs—is laden with corruption and still not close to completion.

According to former Democrat State Rep. Lon Burnam (Fort Worth), there are more allegations of TRWD irresponsibility with taxpayers’ money.

“A number of people that I have been working with this summer have been digging further and further through FOIAs [open records requests] into the water district,” he told Texas Scorecard. “We’re absolutely convinced that monies have been misspent, that people have been paid for work that they haven’t done.”

Burnam said he and other citizens calling for a forensic audit of the district’s finances will be attending the property tax vote on September 20 and the district’s regular monthly meeting on September 21.

Tim O’Hare, a Republican candidate for Tarrant County Judge, agrees with such a call.

“A complete audit is always appropriate for any governmental entity, and that is certainly true for the TRWD,” he told Texas Scorecard. He also encouraged citizens to show up and speak out.

Tarrant County property owners are heavily overtaxed. Tarrant County’s combined tax rate is more [than] 2 1/2 times the Collin County tax rate. Many people don’t even know the Water District exists, but they can definitely make an impact by showing up and making their voices heard. It is time for property owners in Tarrant County to say enough is enough.

“We’re hoping people come in and speak,” Burnam said, adding that citizens concerned about COVID-19 can stand outside the windows of the TRWD auditorium or at the Northside Drive entrance.

The vote on hiking property tax bills will be held on September 20 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and the TRWD board meeting will be on September 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Both will be at the TRWD Administration Office at 800 E. Northside Drive in Fort Worth.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.