The era of representation without taxation at the Denton County Transportation Authority may be coming to an end, after most members of the board of directors agree a change is needed.
But not all.
Frisco’s representative to the board, Carter Wilson, fired the first salvo against the change during a board work session Thursday afternoon. Proposed legislation would take away voting power from Frisco and most other Denton County cities currently represented on the board.
Wilson’s protest soon was followed by ones from Allen Harris of The Colony and Tom Winterburn of Corinth and the Lake Cities, who argued that the power shift would diminish the agency’s regional focus.
But none of those cities contribute to the agency’s $45 million annual budget. Only Denton, Lewisville and Highland Village do.
Those three “member cities” began pressing last year for changes to the board, County Judge Andy Eads said. He visited the work session to ask the board for a unanimous resolution in support of the change, which must occur through state legislation.
“I’ll be quite candid,” Eads told the board. “I believe this agency was in peril.”
No other transit agency in Texas is set up to give voting power to cities that aren’t paying into the system, Eads said. The initial configuration for the board of directors, which has 14 voting members, was a placeholder.
Eads said he was a little embarrassed a change wasn’t made sooner.
“I don’t think that it passes the scrutiny test,” he said.
Eads assured board members that Denton County itself has a stake in the agency, having committed $250 million toward the launch of the A-train, and the regional focus would remain.
Board treasurer David Kovatch, the county’s at-large representative, said the change could dissuade new cities from joining the agency. Eads pledged to put a work group together to make sure that concern was addressed.
In the end, three dissenting members abstained, and the remaining board members voted unanimously to support the change.
DCTA’s legislative consultant said the next step would be the bill’s first draft in the Texas Legislative Council. The bill must be filed before March 8 for it to be considered in the current legislative session.
In other action
The board also unanimously agreed to end its long-running contract with Transit Management of Denton County, which means the 160 frontline workers who run DCTA’s bus system will become DCTA employees by summer.
Staff members told the board they expect enough savings from the change to be able to hire a full-time recruiter and a full-time system planner. Both hires are expected to further bolster the bus system, which has seen an uptick in ridership recently.
The board also re-elected Charles Emery to serve as chairman and Diane Costa as vice chairman. Sara Bagheri, Denton’s new appointee to the board, was elected board secretary and Kovatch treasurer.