The missing penny: How TexTag, MSB and CTRMA rip off drivers and taxpayers

Sometimes it is the seemingly trivial events, like a missing penny or extra $1.00 charge that shed light on a massive issue.

March 31, 2014

Vice President of Operations
Municipal Services Bureau
CTRMA Processing
P O Box 16777
Austin, TX 78761-6777
(888) 811-4565

RE: License Plate:

This response is to reinforce the initial dispute I registered with TxTag and MSB regarding the processing fee.

A day prior to the day my account reached a negative balance, I had attempted on numerous occasions to access the TxTag website to check my balance and add funds if necessary. The login page on the website was down and not even accessible. In other words, it was not possible to even attempt to login.

I then attempted to reach TxTag to check my balance and add funds by phone…over 32 times! (I can show the phone logs). The line was busy each time.

Two days later I was finally able to pull up the TxTag website. My login would no longer function and I was instructed to contact TxTag by phone. Reaching TxTag by phone was almost impossible. I finally got through and was on hold for an extended length of time. A TxTag representative finally picked up. After I gave the
representative my name and account number, I was told that my balance was negative $3.87. When I explained the problem (that I had attempted earlier to add funds when the website was down), the TxTag representative apologized and waived the reinstatement fee. I then added funds to my account.

I then received the invoice from MSB, an entity unknown to me. It was in a gray mailer with perforated edges  and had a New Jersey return address. I almost shredded it thinking it to be junk mail.

However, just before doing so, I tore off the perforation out of momentary curiosity and discovered it was an invoice for toll fees subsequent to my TxTag going  into negative balance.  I attempted to pay online, but there was no option to make a payment for just the toll fees, not the processing fee. I then attempted to pay over the phone, but was told by the MSB rep that MSB could not accept anything but the full amount over the phone.

I am more than willing to pay the $3.87, but the processing fee, as trivial as it is, speaks to a much larger issue about the poor management within TxTag and MSB. Who knows how many other TxTag customers made repeated, legitimate attempts to fund their accounts and ended up unknowingly reaching a negative balance, and are now being hit with additional fees. This is grossly unfair and I am making Representative Tony Dale and Senator Charles Schwertner aware of these events.

I am requesting waiver of the processing fee and instructions on how to make the $3.87 payment.

In the meantime, I am discontinuing my use of the Texas toll way system and am instead using the roads which I have already helped fund with my tax dollars.


Don Stroud


From: Don Stroud
To: Representative Tony Dale

Sometimes it is these seemingly trivial events/amounts that shed light on a massive issue. Obviously, this has cost me a lot of time and money, but now it is a matter of principle.

I did receive a call from TxTag yesterday, and they said they could not accept funds for MSB. Understood.

Frustrated, fed up, and just wanting to get resolution, I attempted to just go ahead and pay MSB via the online portal (   Even though the statement (attached) they emailed to me showed a total current balance of $4.87,  the MSB website showed only $3.01 (due April 15) and would not allow me to pay the $4.87.

I then attempted to pay by phone using MSB’s automated pay-by-phone option.

I spent time entering all of the required reference codes and information, only to be told by the automated voice that the transaction could not be processed, and this was before even being allowed to enter my credit card information.  I attempted this several times.

I then called back and was on hold for at least 8 minutes waiting for a live representative. In short, she confirmed that my balance was $4.87, but that I could only pay $3.01 at this time!  The additional $1.86 was for another toll on the same day within minutes of the $0.69 and $1.32 tolls (+$1.00 processing fee).

She said the additional $1.86 would be on my next statement. I asked her whether there would be a $1.00 processing fee on that statement.  She replied, “Yes, but it is not a processing fee. It is a postage and handling  fee.”   I told her, “I’m looking at the original statement for the $3.01 I received in the mail and it clearly states ‘Processing Fee $1.00‘ ” .

I ended the call without making a payment.  Instead, I went to the additional trouble and expense of writing and mailing a check for  $4.87, enclosed with the original letter and statement from Elye Sackmary, MSB VP of Operations.

Representative Dale, all of this transpired due to the TxTag’s online techinical issues (think and the poor customer support  infrastructure.  If the website is down (see attached screenshot on  Feb. 14 and Feb. 21) and the lines to reach a live representative are  busy, why is there not an automated, add-funds-by-phone feature?

I have resisted using the AutoPay feature due to reported issues with  that system as well, particularly erroneous toll charges customers have incurred.

The second issue is with MSB for the stated reason above.  They are experts in adding misery to people’s lives.

Thank you for taking time to read this and gain an appreciation for the frustration that a larger number of your constituents may also be experiencing but not taking time to bring to your attention.


Don Stroud

P.S. BTW, I’m a big fan of toll ways as long as the funding and eventual ownership is modeled after the DFW Turnpike,  now I30 between  Ft. Worth and Dallas.

From: Jacob Willis
To: Don Stroud

Thank You for contacting the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). We understand that your time is valuable and appreciate your comments, as it will help us to achieve our goal of reaching a higher level of customer satisfaction.

I would first apologize for the busy signal and website difficulties you experienced when trying to reach us here at the TxTag Customer Service Center (CSC). I will notify the appropriate department, to ensure we our providing the best customer service. Unfortunately, we have been experiencing short periods, periodically, when the CSC phone system is experiencing high call volumes’, this in turn causes longer wait times. We do conduct maintenance on our website which is primarily conducted on the weekends and we do try to provide as much advanced notice when these schedule maintenance will be conducted

I did try and contact you today and left a voice mail for you. I was contacted by your state senator’s office to assist with the concerns you have raised. I did contact the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) today and they informed me the account associated with license plate number TX-YYYYY currently has a zero balance. I was hoping to follow up with you to ensure you were able to resolve your concerns with both CTRMA and TxTag.

I do understand your concerns about not willing to pay for fees incurred do to system difficulties. We are currently working with a new vendor to address the concerns you have raised. I again apologize for the inconvenience this caused. Our goal is to maintain a safe system, thus providing the customer the correct information the first time.

If you would like to contact me directly, I can assist with any additional questions or concerns regarding your account. Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

We at TxDOT and TxTag take customer service very seriously, and we strive to provide our customers with the high quality customer service that they deserve.

From: Don Stroud
To: Representative Tony Dale

We just received a $1.00 refund check today from MSB…they spent $.46 in postage to send it. Hopefully, this is an indication of larger changes in play.

Too bad the refund did not include compensation for my time…would have needed to move the decimal several digits to the right.

Thank you for diving into this issue and calling TxDot and MSB to task over their policies and procedures.

Don Stroud

From: Don Stroud

We have five drivers in our home. Due to our frustration with TX Tag’s problems last March, we ceased using the toll roads except in very rare urgent situations. Up to that time we were expending $120+/mo on tolls.  Would the toll way be more convenient? Absolutely. But out of principle and in consideration of time wasted dealing with TX Tag, the benefits were diminished.

I can assure you, we are not the only family who has reduced or ceased using the toll ways, especially 183-A, due to those reasons.   This puts traffic that would have been on the toll roads back on to 183 and feeder roads, adding to congestion as well as wear/tear on taxpayer-funded road surfaces.

Possible solutions:

1) Withhold payments to Xerox until they perform
2) Cancel contract with Xerox for non-performance
3) Withhold funding from TxDoT until all issues are remedied
4) Cancel contract with Municipal Services Bureau due to deceptive billing practices, such as using out of state return addresses and window-less envelopes that have no reference to TxTag.  How many drivers are accumulating late fees due to this practice?
5) Require TxDoT to provide customers real-time viewing of account status and balances, including via mobile apps
6) Allow automated phone pay
7) Volume discounts for multiple-vehicles and usage

I would be happy to appear to give input on any discussions.

I am not against toll roads as long as ownership is properly structured* and the system is properly administered.



June 23, 2014

TxTag’s attempt at damage control

Email from TxTag following exposure of irregularities.


Note: Given that both Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) and Gila LLC (dba Municipal Services Bureau) each employ five high-powered (10 total) lobbyists to promote their interests under the Capitol dome, it would be prudent to remain vigilant regarding TxTag charges and billing practices, regardless of what changes TxTag says they have implemented or intend to implement.

Also, CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein’s annual compensation package is $366,112.00. This is for managing an agency with 21 employees. Compare that to the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, earning an annual salary of $299,812 for managing 11,775 full-time employees.

Changing policies provide relief to drivers and taxpayers will likely not be implemented without very strong resistance from those at the helm of the organizations currently benefiting.

Blog Readers:

Copy the following legislators on letters detailing irregularities and abuses by TxTag, MSB and CTRMA:

Rep. Tony Dale – Williamson County

Rep. Paul Workman – Travis County

Senator Charles Schwertner – Williamson County

Senator Kirk Watson – Travis County

Also, Rep. Geanie Morrison Chair House Transportation Committee

Senator Robert Nichols Chairman Senate Transportation Committee

Be sure to include documentation and screen shots. Include notes of any phone conversations with TxTag, MSB or CTRMA staff, including staff name, date, time.