In front of a house owned by Fort Worth school board candidate Dr. Brian Dixon, a campaign sign supported his opponent.
The sign backed Wallace Bridges, 63, who has accused Dixon, 41, of not living in District 4 and who has asked the Fort Worth ISD to investigate. Dixon counters that he has ample evidence to prove his residency in a house he leases across the street from the one he owns.
Based on the Fort Worth Report’s investigation into Bridges’ accusation, the Tarrant Appraisal District is starting a review into the homestead exemption of the house Dixon owns at 1104 E. Leuda St. When the Report visited the home this week, someone other than Dixon was living there.
Property owners cannot claim a homestead exemption on a home that is not their primary residence, Tarrant Appraisal District Executive Director Jeff Law confirmed April 21.
Dixon told the Report he leases and lives in a house at 1109 E. Leuda St., across the street from the one he owns and claims a homestead exemption on at 1104 E. Leuda St. He also co-owns a house that is in Crowley ISD in Fort Worth.
His campaign filing to the district lists 1109 E. Leuda St. as his residency. This also is the address on his voter registration. However, the address on Dixon’s driver’s license is 1104 E. Leuda St., according to the Tarrant Appraisal District.
A woman who lives at 1104 E. Leuda St. told the Report on April 20 that Dixon does not live there and said she let Bridges put up a campaign sign at his request. She asked not to be identified.
The Report also visited 1109 E. Leuda St. on the same day. A woman answered the door but did not identify herself and said Dixon did not live there. Instead, she said, he lives across the street at 1104 E. Leuda.
When the Report followed up with Dixon after the visit to 1109 E. Leuda, he said he spoke with the homeowner, Sherry Bolton, and said she was hesitant to speak after an incident where Bridges went to her house last week. Dixon said he told her it was a reporter who stopped by and told the Report she is open to a reporter going back to speak with her to confirm his residence.
On April 21, the Report returned to her house and asked to speak with her again, she said, “Yes, (Dixon) does live here and, yes, we have a contract, and I have nothing else to say.”
Bridges said people in the neighborhood know that Dixon does not live there and that he is renting out his house on East Leuda and lives in Crowley ISD.
“That’s just America,” Bridges said. “You can choose to live wherever you choose to live. Well, then he said, ‘Oh, just kidding. No, I don’t live there. I live at 1109,’ and it’s almost like, are we really that stupid?”
The school district is not investigating Dixon’s residency based on his voter registration. The district only has to confirm residency at the time a candidate files with the county. The Tarrant County Elections Office and the online database of Texas voter registrations list Dixon’s voter registration as active at 1109 E. Leuda.
Dixon emphasized that public records show he lives at 1109 E. Leuda St.
“I never had a driver’s license anywhere but the district,” he said in an email on April 15. “I have never had a voter registration anywhere but in the district. I have never had a homestead exemption anywhere but in the district. Consider this my final statement on the issue.”
Dixon also provided an email from the elections office confirming his address was updated to 1109 E. Leuda St. for his active voter registration. The email said he requested the address change on Feb. 7, 2022. Dixon and another person filed a deed for a home in Crowley ISD on Oct. 5, 2021, according to Tarrant County. The Crowley ISD home also carries a homestead exemption, but it is not Dixon’s, Law said.
“My investment in the Southside knowingly goes unseen,” Dixon said in an email on April 15. “As president of the (Historic Southside Neighborhood Association) for the two years preceding Wallace, I invested hours and thousands of dollars into building a better community, including transitioning us through COVID by going from in-person to virtual. I froze alongside my Leuda neighbors last year when the power was out for days. I’ve volunteered at career days and Back to School at Van Zandt Guinn. I didn’t do it for Facebook or a resume. I did it for our kids. Thus, it’s hurtful that he’s making these types of unfounded accusations and, frankly, sows discord within the Black community.”
But Wallace said it’s a bigger insult to run for school board in a community where he does not live. The Fort Worth ISD school board is set up to have single-member districts, meaning whoever represents a district has to reside in it.
Homestead exemption definition
According to the Texas Comptroller website: Tax Code Section 11.13(b) requires school districts to provide a $25,000 exemption on a residence homestead and Tax Code Section 11.13(n) allows any taxing unit to adopt a local option residence homestead exemption of up to 20 percent of a property’s appraised value. The local option exemption cannot be less than $5,000. Tax Code Section 11.13(a) requires counties that collect farm-to-market or flood control taxes to provide a $3,000 residence homestead exemption.
To qualify for the general residence homestead exemption an individual must have an ownership interest in the property and use the property as the individual’s principal residence. An applicant is required to state that he or she does not claim an exemption on another residence homestead in or outside of Texas.
“It’s an insult to the Black community when the country club folks decide to choose who they think is better for this community,” Bridges said. “I believe that they know he doesn’t live in this community, but they say, ‘Oh let’s just put a sign out and say Dr so-and-so’ and people will say, ‘Oh, he’s got to be better for all of us.”
Although the elections office focuses on voter registration, the appraisal district requires that a homestead exemption be used only where the property is used as a primary residence. Both 1104 and 1109 E. Leuda St. addresses are claimed as homestead exemptions.
Law said Bolton’s homestead exemption is not in question as long as she lives at 1109 E. Leuda. She can rent space to Dixon and still have the exemption. Dixon’s is the one in question because someone else is living in the home he claimed as his exemption.
The impact on the May 7 election for the school board race is unclear. The ballots already have been printed. Dixon leads Bridges in fundraising, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Dixon raised $7,350 from Feb. 19 to March 28. Bridges brought in $4,335 during the same period.
Dixon has received some prominent endorsements, including from the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors, the United Educators Association and the political action committee Focus on Students.
Early voting begins April 25 and ends May 3. Election Day is May 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Bridges’ endorsements include City Council member Elizabeth Beck, Chairman of the Regional Black Contractors Association John Proctor, and State Board of Education member Aicha Davis.
Dixon wants to keep the focus on his goals as a candidate for the remaining weeks of the campaign.
“My goal is to stay focused on our kids, my record, my career, and my public service reflects that. I hope that any report from FWR does the same,” Dixon said.
But, on April 21, community leaders gathered in front of the 1109 address to call for an immediate investigation into Dixon’s residency. The event was led by Michael Bell, spokesman for the Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee.
During the press conference, Dixon walked out of the house at 1109 E. Leuda, got in his car, and left. When the Report visited the home only two hours earlier, though, that car was not there, and Dixon did not come to the door.
Bell wants the school district to ensure the integrity of the election.
“We’re here to call for an immediate investigation into the discrepancies over where Dr. Dixon actually resides,” Bell said. “There are lingering lingering questions related to Dr. Dixon’s candidacy, and they haven’t been sufficiently addressed by the Fort Worth ISD Board, especially board president Tobi Jackson.”
A clique of people downtown have a vested interest in the race because they are pushing their own agenda, he said.
“District 4 deserves to have elected officials that actually live in and are fully invested in District 4 and not have outside persons… They handpick those to further their own agendas, which usually are not in the interest of our district or especially not our children,” Bell said.
Absent from view during the press conference was the campaign sign supporting Bridges. After the Report’s visit to Leuda Street the day before, the sign was removed.
Disclaimer: Fort Worth Report board director and co-chair Wes Turner is a financial supporter of the Focus on Students political action committee.
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.