The city of Fort Worth doesn’t have a formal process to ensure that residents are being charged the actual amount of property taxes they owe — nor does it have one to make sure all Fort Worth properties are represented on the county tax rolls.
That will change this year, thanks to an internal audit that revealed the weaknesses to city management. The city’s Planning and Data Analytics Department is now searching for a third-party vendor to reconcile property numbers and ensure accurate appraisal amounts in the fall.
“We are certainly very mindful of our role in aggregating the funds that are assessed and making sure that we are very diligent about the way that we record it and the way that we spend it,” city auditor David Medrano said. “So we certainly hope to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Property tax revenue accounts for about 58% of the city’s 2023 general fund revenue. As such, ensuring that property tax revenues are predicted and calculated correctly is vital to the financial viability of the city. While city staff have informally developed a process for reconciliations, Medrano said it’s important to have an official system in place.
Without the independent verification of tax rolls that the audit called for, he said, property owners could see their tax dollars accidentally go to the wrong taxing entity.
“One of the consequences is that a (Fort Worth) property that lies along one of the property lines of Denton, Parker, Wise, Johnson, may inadvertently be included in their assessment,” he said.
In order to avoid consequences like that, Medrano said having a clearcut, documented policy on verifying tax information is key.
Tax deadlines to know
Tarrant County residents have until May 30 to file a protest of their property appraisal.
Property tax statements are generally mailed the first week of October.
Property taxes are due Jan. 31, 2024. The property taxes become delinquent if not paid by Jan. 31.
When it comes to ensuring residents are being charged accurately for their property appraisals, Medrano said, it comes down to a standard of reasonableness. For example, he said, if they discovered someone had only paid $4 in property taxes, it would be unreasonable to assume that was the correct charge.
For that reason, it’s important to have someone going through and doing spot checks, to make sure that there aren’t massive outliers that indicate someone was either over or undercharged.
“We are always, as auditors, looking to continuously improve our internal operations,” Medrano said. “And that’s really why we’re here to help push that process along.”
Medrano said that city management’s prompt response to the audit should comfort taxpayers.
“We know we’re not perfect, but we are willing to learn to improve our processes,” he said.
Timeline for hiring a third-party vendor
May 2023 – Determine the process for engaging a vendor for reconciliation.
June 2023 – Implement a procurement process for a vendor.
August 2023 – Work with the chosen vendor on time and resources needed to complete the reconciliation process.
September 2023 – Provide access to the necessary resources for the reconciliation.
December 2023 – Depending on the timeline required to complete the reconciliation, either deliver said reconciliation or continue to work with the vendor.