After initially presenting a budget for fiscal year 2024 in July, Tarrant Regional Water District leadership revised their plans and laid out an adjusted budget during their Aug. 15 meeting.
Water District General Manager Dan Buhman announced a tax rate reduction and three other adjustments to the agency’s general fund.
Residents will have the opportunity to comment on the tax rate and budget at 9 a.m. Sept. 13 before the board votes on the budget Sept. 19. The updated budget, which was unanimously approved by board members, could be on the water district’s website within a week from Tuesday.
The changes are meant to better align the water district’s budget with its vision of supplying water to its customers while offering flood protection, conserving water for future use and creating opportunities for recreation around the Trinity River system, Buhman said.
“Over the last year, we’ve made a concerted effort to move away from programs that don’t fit naturally and completely within TRWD’s purpose,” Buhman said.
The changes increase the general fund budget by about $2.6 million. The water district plans to move funds between the general fund, which uses property tax revenue to pay for flood control projects, and the special projects contingency fund.
The special projects fund primarily uses revenues from natural gas leases and other income to pay for recreation and other special projects. Now, the special projects fund will be used to finance construction of canals related to the Panther Island project.
The water district also announced a reduced tax rate, dropping from $0.0269 per $100 of valuation rate announced in July to $0.0267 per $100 of valuation. Despite the reduction, the water district still expects to collect more property tax revenue this year compared to last.
Now, a homeowner with the average net taxable value of $228,211 will pay about $60 to the water district, $1 less than under the previous tax rate.
Water district staff also propose moving $3.45 million from the special projects fund to the general fund to pay for creating trails and other costs related to maintaining the Trinity Trail system. Environmental stewardship programs such as the trash bash cleanup and open space conservation also will be moved to the general fund.
The change follows the water district’s efforts to create a new recreational master plan. Since June, the agency has been soliciting feedback from residents on how they use existing trails and waterways. The results of the master plan will have a sizable impact on future budgets, Sandy Newby, the water district’s chief financial officer, said.
Moving funding for trail maintenance, environmental stewardship and open space conservation to the general fund ensures a reliable source of revenue for improvements to the water district’s recreational assets, Buhman said.
“Take the more variable incomes and segregate them so that it provides better planning and budgeting, so as our area grows we’re able to maintain our infrastructure,” said board president Leah King.
The special projects fund will increase by about $3 million that will be set aside to build canals associated with development on Panther Island. The canals will serve as flood control and stormwater transmission as development gets underway on the future island.
Originally, the water district planned just $1 million in expenditures from the general fund for canals. But after a developer expressed interest in starting development on the island, the appropriation was increased to $3 million and moved out of the general fund.
Now, no property tax revenue will be used to fund work on the Central City / Panther Island flood control project in fiscal year 2024, Newby said.
The 2024 budget will also decrease the general fund by moving about $109,000 in revenues from the general fund to the special projects fund. Those revenues include income earned from permitting at Twin Points Park at Eagle Mountain Lake and from the Rockin’ the River event.
Those incomes are some of the water district’s most variable, Newby said. Moving them to the special projects fund ensures a reduction in revenue would not impact flood protection efforts.
Board approves contract for Panther Island engineering support
Kimley-Horn & Associates received a $234,100 contract through the water district for engineering support related to the Central City / Panther Island flood control project. The contract asks the company to prepare documents about right-of-way requirements near the site of where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to construct a bypass channel to reroute part of the Trinity River.
The company is also required to produce a boundary survey required for the raising of University Drive project design, integrate the Army Corps’ final design into project maps and provide on-call master developer support to review developers’ plans on and around Panther Island to ensure compliance with the Army Corps’ requirements.
The board unanimously approved the contract.
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.