In her bid for a fifth straight term as mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price is portraying herself as a champion for taxpayers, but data from the Tarrant Appraisal District and the Texas Bond Review Board disagree.

On her campaign website and in recent mailers to Fort Worth voters, Price praises herself for cutting the municipal property tax rate by 7 cents in the past three years.

While it is true that the municipal property tax rate has been reduced, the city’s property tax burden levied on homeowners has actually gone up. According to data from TAD, when Price became mayor in 2011, the average city property tax bill was $815 but was $1,139 in 2018—nearly a 40 percent increase.

And a study from ATOMM Data Solutions showed that in 2018 the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area had property tax increases much higher than the national average.

Additionally, according to data from the Texas Bond Review Board, during Price’s tenure Fort Worth’s total outstanding debt (principal plus interest) increased by $612 million to $2.67 billion dollars, a 30 percent increase! As debt increases, so must the taxes to pay the debt, making the possibility of achieving true property tax relief more difficult in the future.

Price has also been one of the major proponents of the taxpayer-money sinkhole TEXRail, which has cost Fort Worth taxpayers approximately $250 million and had ridership drop over 60 percent in February from its debut month in January.

As property values rise, the city must pass a property tax rate equal to or lower than the effective tax rate for property owners’ tax bills to stay the same or decrease. The effective tax rate is calculated each year as valuations change and is the rate that would generate the same amount of property tax revenue for a local taxing entity as the year before (excluding new property added to the tax rolls). For example, even though Fort Worth City Council lowered the property tax rate from $.084 to $.081 per $100 valuation between FY 2016-2017 and FY 2017-2018, it was effectively raised by 3.88 percent, resulting in a $24 property tax bill increase for a $100,000 home.

For there to be an actual reduction in residents’ municipal property tax bill, the tax rate must be set below the effective tax rate. In 2018, the Fort Worth City Council adopted a rate very close to the ETR, but still above it.

Texas Scorecard contacted Price’s campaign inquiring about her claim and how she plans to bring relief to Fort Worth property taxpayers, considering the increase in average property tax bills. As of publication time, the Price campaign had not yet responded.

All Fort Worth City Council positions are on the ballot this May. Taxpayers deserve to know where candidates stand on the issue of property tax relief before heading to the polls.

Early voting for the May 4 election begins April 22.

This article has been updated since publication.

Robert Montoya

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