AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s special meeting of the Amarillo City Council, officials with the city of Amarillo made two tax rate proposals to the council for the 2022-23 fiscal year, one of which includes the renovations to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex and one which does not include the project. 

During the meeting, the Amarillo City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the proposed tax rate and budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, moving the proposed tax rate down from the original ceiling of $0.49086 to a rate of $0.40628. The decrease in the proposed rate only impacts the interest and sinking portion of the rate, allowing the city to fund everything in its 2022-23 budget. 

What happened during the meeting? 

Laura Storrs, the city’s chief financial officer and assistant city manager, said the city of Amarillo’s 2022-23 budget, with expenditures totaling around $490.8 million. This budget includes funding for the following items, along with normal city operations: 

  • A new fire station, 15 additional firefighters and one new fire district chief; 
  • Four additional police officers, along with vehicles and equipment; 
  • Solid waste pay enhancements to recruit and retain staff; 
  • Parks funding for maintenance, mowing and more; 
  • Increased cost of utilities, fuel and materials; 

After laying out the budget, Storrs presented two options for the tax rate moving forward, the first of which was the ceiling rate approved by the Amarillo City Council in August. This ceiling rate included funding for athletic field lighting, the new City Hall facility as well as the ongoing Amarillo Civic Center Project. 

However, Storrs also presented a lower rate of $0.40628, which would result in a tax decrease of $3 a month for a $100,000 home, and an overall tax bill decrease of around 1.5%. This rate would cover the proposed budget, along with the public safety initiatives, park maintenance and solid waste pay enhancements, along with the funding for athletic field lighting and the funding for the new City Hall facility. 

What this new rate does not include is property tax funding for the renovations and expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center Project. This comes after the Amarillo City Council approved an ordinance to use tax notes for the project during the May 24 meeting. 

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said she supported, and recommended, the decrease of the tax rate to $0.40628. Other members of the council, also supported the decrease, which caused the ultimate move to that rate for the upcoming second reading. However, no final decisions on the city’s 2022-23 tax rate have been made as of Tuesday, since it was only the first reading. 

How could this impact the ongoing Civic Center Project? 

Storrs said even with the lower rate, the one which does not include the property tax funding for the Amarillo Civic Center Project, would continue to pursue that project. Because of where the city is left in the fiscal year, the project would be able to move forward, as long as the legal proceedings are resolved. 

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly filed a lawsuit in Potter County against the city of Amarillo in late May, challenging the legality of the city using the notes for this project. In response to Fairly’s lawsuit, the city filed its own lawsuit in Potter County, asking a judge to validate the use of the notes. Those two lawsuits have since been combined into one overall case.

A petition process surrounding the same topic was started in August, with more than 12,500 allegedly signing a petition calling the Amarillo City Council to repeal the ordinance which allowed the use of the notes for this project. City of Amarillo officials are currently in the midst of verifying that all the signatures came from Amarillo residents. 

If the council chooses the lower rate in 2022-23, city of Amarillo officials said that the tax rate would not increase because of the Civic Center Project until the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

“As we currently forecast, we don’t see any possibility of that project moving forward until such time that we could push that tax increase to October 2023,” Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said. “…A 40-cent tax rate, 40 and change, will allow us to do everything that’s in the budget.” 

When asked about how Tuesday’s special meeting impacted the ongoing litigation in Potter County along with the petition effort surrounding Ordinance 7985, Fairly provided the following statement: 

“We are not sure what (the city’s) direction is – they have not given an indication. Clearly, there is some movement on their part but until they do something more formal, it’s business as usual. While we ultimately hope to prevail, with the lack of transparency and communication, we can only continue our course.” 

What’s Next? 

The Amarillo City Council will meet at 1 p.m. Thursday for a special meeting to vote on the second reading to adopt the 2022-23 budget and establish the 2022-23 fiscal year’s tax rate.