Clearing the MUD muck in Fort Bend County

- As the saying goes for murky situations, they are clear as mud. Now a Fort Bend County resident is campaigning to make his local MUD transparent.

"It's our second largest tax bill, next to school districts," says Antonio Herrera, talking about his Fort Bend Municipal Utility District 57. He's campaigning to serve on the board. "I'm running on a platform of transparency."

While the water at Pine Mill Ranch is beautifully clear, the business dealings of the MUD are not.

"Our MUD recently put in a trail system through the neighborhood, which is wonderful, but people would like to know, where did the money come from?" adds Herrera.

Municipal utility districts all over Texas collect money to repay the cost of the water infrastructure in new developments, but they have the power of many municipalities, collect hundreds or thousands of dollars per year from each homeowner and can buy property outside of the MUD boundaries.

Herrera says it's time people start paying attention to their MUD business dealings. To help facilitate that, he wants to move Fort Bend MUD 57 meetings to a place and time convenient for residents. Right now, the board meetings are held on a weekday morning far outside the district.

"It's not even a question of money being misspent or mishandled," says Herrera. "It's that general view of oversight."

Fort Bend County homeowners have already shown fury over skyrocketing property values.

"I think more and more people are becoming fed up with the runaway property tax situation and MUDs are part of that picture," says real estate agent Aaron Layman, one of the organizers of last year's protests. He recommends a watchful eye over any governmental agency collecting your hard-earned dollars.

"Start digging," recommends Layman. "Find out who's on the board of the MUD. If you can get to a meeting, go to a meeting. Start asking questions." That's how Hererra got started, and now, he's running for office.

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