AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During the second of two special meetings of the Amarillo City Council within a week, the council unanimously voted in favor of establishing the 2022-23 tax rate and city budget during Thursday’s second reading of both ordinances. The 2022-23 tax rate and city budget will be implemented starting in October. 

The council unanimously adopted the city’s 2022-23 budget of $490.8 million in expenditures and a projected revenue budget of $455.4 million. The council also unanimously approved a tax rate of $0.40628 for the upcoming fiscal year. This upcoming fiscal year’s rate is a lower figure than the 2021-22 rate of around $0.44. 

Even with the decrease, city officials expect an increased amount of revenue to come into the city, because of area property values increasing. Laura Storrs, the chief financial officer and assistant city manager for the city of Amarillo, said Amarillo residents should see a decrease of around $3 a month for a $100,000 home, and an overall tax bill decrease of around 1.5%. 

What does this budget/tax rate cover? 

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the $490.8 million budget approved during Thursday’s meeting included normal city operations, along with the funding for the following items: 

  • 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, enhanced equipment and more; 
  • Increasing costs of utilities, fuel and materials; 
  • Funding for improvements to athletic field lighting across the city; 
  • Funding for the new City Hall facility. 

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson stressed the importance of this budget increasing the pay for those who have commercial driver’s licenses who participate in the city’s Solid Waste department, aiming at returning to twice-a-week trash pickup. Nelson also highlighted the other services that the city’s portion of the tax bill pays for, including first responder service, water and street repair. 

“I’m really glad that our staff worked really hard this year, to put us in a position where we could decrease that tax rate, but not decrease the services we’re providing to citizens,” Nelson said. 

What does this budget/tax rate not cover? 

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the Amarillo City Council proposed a ceiling tax rate of $0.49086 in August, covering all the expenditures and projects that the lower tax rate passed Thursday does cover. An additional project that the ceiling tax rate would have covered if it was implemented was the improvements and the expansion of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex. 

According to previous reports, the Amarillo City Council approved a measure that would have given them the opportunity to use tax notes for the project. However, ongoing litigation in Potter County, led by Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly that challenges the legality of the use of the notes, as well as a citizen-led petition calling for the Amarillo City Council to repeal the ordinance has stopped the city’s ability to move forward with the project as of now. 

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said the $0.08458 difference in the tax rate to include the Civic Center Project’s impact was always the projection at the start. Miller said as it is currently being envisioned to be paid for, that rate will “move just a little bit from year to year, and then it’ll start going down after about five or six years.” 

However, if the project does move forward, officials previously said the tax rate would not increase due to the Civic Center project until the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

“Because of the timing and the way, all of the different things that we’re working through to evaluate and determine whether or not we’re going to move forward with the Civic Center when we’re going to move forward with it,” Miller said, “we know that we can delay and defer rather, implementing that tax rate necessary to pay for the debt service on the civic center until October of 2023.” 

While the Civic Center project continues to be a priority for the City Council, Nelson said that the overall timing of the project continues to be uncertain. She stressed that as soon as there is certainty on the timing of the project, they can move forward and issue debt. However, certain things will have to be revisited regarding the project, in the midst of fluctuating construction costs and increasing interest rates. 

“The Civic Center is an important project, it’s important for the growth and the future of our city. It’s something that has to be done, but there’s timing involved,” Nelson said. “While we’re waiting for things to resolve, and we move forward on that project, we can roll the next season of that to the next budget year… Until all of that is resolved, we do not want to collect taxes from taxpayers until we’re ready to move forward.” 

Through the 2022-23 budget, however, Miller said the city of Amarillo will have the capacity in the budget “to be able to move forward with the project immediately upon getting a green light.” 

According to previous reports, Fairly recently told MyHighPlains.com that it is “business as usual” surrounding the ongoing Civic Center funding-related litigation in Potter County.