Residents living in the Tarrant Regional Water District’s taxing district along the Trinity River will see a small decrease on their property tax bill next year.
However, Fort Worth, Arlington and other cities that purchase water from the agency will see their costs increase by millions of dollars in 2024.
During their Sept. 19 meeting, water district board members approved a budget that reduces the agency’s tax rate from $0.0269 per $100 of valuation to $0.0267. 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. The water district, which touts its rate as the lowest in Tarrant County, still expects to collect an additional $9 per taxpayer, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
Board member James Hill pointed out that property tax revenue goes toward the water district’s flood control efforts and does not determine a person’s water bill cost. Established in 1949, the taxing district is primarily in Fort Worth and funds operation and maintenance of the 27-mile Fort Worth floodway.
“I take the tax rate very seriously,” Hill said. “Again, this is the infrastructure for the levee system, and the taxpayers that are in the flood control district are the ones that are actually bearing the burden of this cost, not the ordinary water user.”
While the property tax rate is decreasing, the water district is preparing to charge more for water usage. TRWD will charge $1.35 for every 1,000 gallons of water used by customers, or a 4.9% increase from last year.
The change will bring in $12.2 million additional revenue, allowing the water district to invest in necessary additional maintenance, equipment and staff, chief financial officer Sandy Newby said during a July budget workshop.
Because it uses the most water out of any TRWD customer, the city of Fort Worth will incur the highest cost increase. Fort Worth will pay around $98.6 million for water next year, or $7.85 million more than it paid in 2023. The cost increase for the city of Arlington and the Trinity River Authority will top $1 million next year, while Mansfield’s tab will go up by about $766,676.
Board members have regularly increased the water system rate over the past several years, including a 2.9% increase in 2023. C.B. Team, who joined the board in January, said the increase was discussed in detail at a meeting with TRWD customers.
“All the core major customers had a lot of input, had their staffs look at it,” Team said. “We answered some questions, and it was unanimously approved to recommend approval for us.”
Fort Worth’s water department is increasing its own rates for the first time in four years. In addition to higher interest rates and investments in pipe replacements, the hike will address rising costs from TRWD and the Trinity River Authority, which offers wastewater treatment services to the city.
Chris Harder, Fort Worth’s water director, said the combined cost increase from both agencies will be around $15.8 million. The water district’s rate hike is much lower than the Trinity River Authority, he added.
“But because of our growth, we also anticipate actually buying more water from (the water district),” Harder said during an Aug. 24 budget work session. “So it’s kind of a rate increase plus an additional demand.”
Outside of improving pipelines and other infrastructure that delivers water to customers, TRWD plans to increase investments in maintaining LaGrave Field and building a solar-powered “trash wheel” to remove floating waste from the Trinity River, among other projects. The future of LaGrave, an abandoned baseball park formerly home to the Fort Worth Cats, remains up in the air as the water district awaits recommendations from a consultant evaluating the future of real estate development on Panther Island.
Water district staff expect to spend $116.4 million on costs related to the Central City / Panther Island project. Around $88 million of that budget will go toward reimbursing the city of Fort Worth for moving water, sewer and other utilities out of the path of a 1.5-mile bypass channel rerouting part of the Trinity.
Thanks to high interest from developers, the water district is also speeding up its timeline for building canals on Panther Island near downtown. Staff expect to spend $3 million to build out more of a canal system that will serve as flood control and stormwater transmission for the future island.
This article has been updated to reflect the correct percentage increase of the water system rate in 2023.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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