If the budget city officials have proposed passes, Fort Worth homeowners will be paying even higher city property taxes this year.

City Manager David Cooke recently proposed the city’s 2020 budget, recommending that Fort Worth City Council enact higher average city property tax bills and increased spending.

According to data from the Tarrant Appraisal District, Cooke’s proposed tax rate for 2019 would increase the average homeowner’s city property tax bill by nearly 5 percent, a 42.8 percent increase, from just six years ago, to $1,193. As property values have skyrocketed in recent years, the city has not lowered its tax rate enough to offset the higher values. This has resulted in homeowners paying a bigger tax bill to the city.

The proposed budget would continue an unfortunate trend in Fort Worth’s property tax history. From 2013 to 2018, the average Fort Worth homeowner’s city property tax bill increased over 36 percent, from $835 to $1,139.

Cooke’s proposed property tax rate would flood city coffers with 8.8 percent more property tax cash than last year—significantly above the “effective” tax rate, which would collect the same amount of property tax revenue overall from the same properties taxed last year.

It also exceeds the current rollback rate—where taxpayers may petition for an election seeking their approval for the new rate. Roughly $16 million of the $46 million in new property tax revenue will come from new properties added to the tax rolls.

The proposed revenue increase of over 8 percent also far exceeds limits in newly enacted state law, which will require most cities and counties to ask for voter approval before increasing property tax revenues by more than 3.5 percent from the previous year. That reform was passed in 2019, but does not take effect until January of next year.

Furthermore, the proposed budget would increase spending in the general fund by over $113 million from just three years ago.

As several cities are joining Colleyville in a pro-taxpayer revolution of keeping homeowners’ city property tax bills stable from the previous year, Fort Worth appears to be joining the vast majority in Texas that are grabbing as much cash as possible before next year’s property tax reforms take effect.

City officials are expected to approve the new budget when they vote on September 17, so taxpayers still have time to voice their concerns to their council members at public hearings on August 27 and September 10.

Information in 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.