AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Amarillo City Council voted to approve an ordinance authorizing and issuing $260 milllion in tax and revenue notes to fund the Amarillo Civic Center project.
This most recent move by the council comes after voters rejected a bond proposition for the Civic Center project in 2020.
It started with public comment, in which a handful of people spoke out against the ordinance, and at least two threatened to sue to stop the debt issuance.
“The voters were very clear on the measure of a new Civic Center not once, but twice. They said no,” said Claudette Smith.
Don Tipps, an Amarillo business owner said, “Because the will the people, or the voters, has already been made known on the issue, advancing this project will be in direct opposition to exactly the citizens who have put y’all in office,” said Tipps. “If you choose to move forward, it seems the only way I know to stop that on this side is through litigation.”
After public comment and the rest of their agenda items, the council heard key findings and recommendations from the Garfield report on funding for the Civic Center project, which offered alternate funding options.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the $260 million in tax and revenue notes, with Councilmember for Place 1, Cole Stanley, voting against the measure.
During a back-and-forth prior to the vote, Stanley asked for two more weeks for more consideration and to move the agenda item to the next regular session meeting.
“Why are we trying to take action on this today, Mayor?” Stanley asked.
Mayor Ginger Nelson responded, “I wish we could give more time. The environment that we’re in, it’s just not the hand we’ve been dealt.”
City officials said during the meeting that since voters last shot down the funding in 2020, projected costs for the project have increased considerably, citing increased prices for materials and construction.
Mayor Nelson also pointed to increasing interest rates.
According to Laura Storrs, assistant city manager and Chief Financial officer, the City’s base tax rate is around $0.44. With the increase, it will eventually be $0.57.
She said for the average $100,000 home, the monthly property tax increase would be under $9 at its peak.
Councilmember for Place 4, Howard Smith, said he was excited to pass the ordinance.
“The taxpayers will be paying more taxes on property that they own. That’s how it would be paid off and so, it’ll impact them, but it’s going to be worth it,” said Smith. “Because we’ll have a place to go. We can have programs at the convention center and the projection was if we didn’t do anything, the traffic would slow down, because we’re out of date. And people would stop coming here for conventions.”
Storrs said future city councils can decide how to pay the debt as they look for ways to subsidize the cost.
“Each year, each council goes through setting a property tax rate. So, as we look at outstanding debt, if there’s other funding sources on some of the debt that’s backed by property taxes and council chooses instead to pay some of that debt service with another funding source, that lowers the amount that would need to be considered on the property tax rate for that year,” she said.
The City will look to use naming rights and sponsorships, as well as Hotel Occupancy tax and sales tax revenue, in addition to the tax and revenue notes to pay for the project.