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Changes, More Oversight Coming To Fort Worth Transportation Authority

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - A billion dollars worth of your tax money is on the line, and the agency overseeing that money is now under fire for missed deadlines, questionable spending and not enough oversight.

However, a memo from the Fort Worth City Council suggests that's about to change, and it will be a major change.

The agency is the Fort Worth Transportation Authority or The T.

Fort Worth appoints all but one of the agency's board members.

Months ago, Mayor Betsy Price warned the agency it needed to better communicate where it was spending money and why.

Since then, the mayor said, little has changed.

"They're not opened up like I would like," Price said. "I think we've seen some movement but not as much as I'd like to see. There is a lot of money at stake in these projects."

Fort Worth and Grapevine taxpayers are pumping hundreds of millions of sales tax dollars into commuter rail projects with nothing to show for it.

Leaders in both cities have expressed frustrations about not knowing where the money is going and why the project's completion has been delayed from 2012 until 2016.

Now, the T is having trouble meeting a federal deadline to apply for nearly half a billion dollars in federal money.

A CBS11 investigation questioned tens of thousands of dollars in spending for travel expenses to ski resorts and expensive hotels.

Fort Worth's council will now vote on a memo they say will make The T's operations more transparent.

"We're saying now, we as elected officials also have a responsibility to make sure they know the citizens interests are being looked out for," said Council member Jungus Jordan who is often the city's representative on transportation issues with regional agencies. "Its not that we're criticizing. Its just we want these safe guards to be in place."

Fort Worth's council will vote on adopting a memo forcing The T to have an outside audit look at the performance of The T's management and its bookkeeping.

There would be a review to compare The T's operating costs with private operators and measure the efficiency of service.

And it would force The T to send its budgets to Fort Worth and Tarrant county commissioners for review.

The T says it has already begun the process of hiring an auditor and is working to improve its lines of communications with taxpayers.

"Several of the elements in the memorandum of understanding are things the T currently does, and we will make every effort to better communicate the availability of that information to the public beyond our website," said T spokesperson Joan Hunter.

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