Tarrant Regional Water District will flood $189.8 million into delivering water to customers and flood mitigation through its proposed budget.
Tarrant Regional Water District expects to collect about $152 million from water sales in fiscal year 2023. The water district attributes the increase to higher costs for materials and labor. The budget also proposes cuts to five recreational programs in 2023.
What is a fiscal year?
A fiscal year is a one-year period that taxing entities use for financial reporting and budgeting. The fiscal year starts Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.
The agency sells water to 55 customers including Fort Worth, Arlington and Mansfield. The water district plans to break even on water sales, only budgeting based on their projected expenses.
The proposed 2023 budget asks for a nearly 3% increase in its water rate, from $1.25503 to $1.29191. The water district expects to collect an additional $5.6 million in water sales in 2023 compared with 2022.
The water district expects to provide about 117 million gallons of water to its customers in 2023, a 0.86% increase from 2022. Water supply projects such as the Cedar Creek Wetlands are also funded through the rate, and that project is scheduled to be finished by 2027.
“We have more infrastructure to operate and maintain while experiencing inflated labor and construction costs like everyone else,” General Manager Dan Buhman said.
Along with collecting revenues from water sales, the water district levies a property tax against residents. The revenue from property taxes pays for flood protection, and some smaller specialty funds like events and recreation. The water district expects to collect an additional $2.5 million in funding in 2023 through property tax revenues.
The water district’s tax rate is the lowest in the county at 0.026, a slight decrease from the year prior.
Other than the central city flood project, which recently received $403 million in federal funding, the water district does not have any flood control projects in progress. That tax revenue collected in 2023 will go mainly toward upkeep of existing infrastructure.
The tax rate will also fund planning for future flood projects. The water district plans about 25 years into the future, Buhman said, to cope with increasing urbanization in the region.
“As the area develops, it has the potential to increase the amount of runoff into the river,” Buhman said. “So we’re planning ahead and saying ‘What do we need to do?’ ”
The district is preparing to commission engineering studies to predict the flow of the river, Buhman said.
The water district is also planning to fund the final phases of the central city flood project. The water district’s portion of the project is mainly funded through a 2018 bond that devoted $250 million to pay for the water district’s share of the project costs.
Income from the Trinity River Vision Tax Increment Financing District goes toward paying off the debt. The water district will put $7.3 million to paying off the debt. The organization plans to devote about $16.8 million to the Panther Island Project in 2023, a slight increase from the $14 million budget in 2022.
The biggest share of the expenditures, about $9 million, will go to land acquisition. Most of the land will be purchased near Gateway Park, to be used for water storage in the event of flooding.
Once the land is acquired, the district is responsible for demolition and environmental remediation. The water district has previously spent nearly $50 million to clean up properties related to the project before it received federal funding.
Now, the district is working to stay ahead of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that will be responsible for the bulk of work on the channel, Chief Financial Officer Sandy Newby said. Most of the work will be completed in the next couple of years.
“What’s going to take a little bit longer is the city moving all the utilities,” Newby said. “It’s just hard.”
Revenues from oil and natural gas wells owned by the district are used for recreation programs in and around the Trinity River. The district’s recreation programming received major changes through the 2023 budget. Tarrant Regional Water District is preparing a new strategic plan to identify what events and services align with the organization’s mission.
“We want to make sure we have equity in how we spend the money across the community and make sure that we’re sort of meeting the next need, whatever that is,” Buhman said.
The water district plans to scrap five community events and cut funding from three recreational services including Trinity Trail permitting and Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain Lake leasing.
“In the end, it’s going to be up to the board to increase or decrease recreation,” Buhman said. “They have not given that indication yet”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. 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.