AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Amarillo is expected to receive more than $42 million from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP).
During the recent State of the City event at Hodgetown. Amarillo Assistant City Manager Laura Storrs outlined some of the plans of what the funds could be used for, including the city’s new broadband internet initiative and various initiatives related to Amarillo’s homeless population.
Storrs said during the event that the city also plans to use the funds for public safety-related measures, including adding police and fire equipment as well as bringing life into parks in underserved areas throughout the city.
Along with potentially covering those things with the ARP funds, city officials are also looking to use funds from an increased tax rate towards public safety and parks, along with street repair and increased compensation for various first responders.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the Amarillo City Council approved a tax rate of $0.48404 in August, triggering a November election. This comes after a budget increase of more than 22% was also approved by the council.
If the vote passes by voters in November, the tax rate that the council approved will remain. If the vote fails in November, the tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year would result in the voter approval tax rate of $0.44334, a rate which is $0.0407 lower than the rate council voted on. This voter approval tax rate, mandated by Texas law, is still higher than the city’s rate of $0.39681 for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said after the State of The City event that while there is overlap in the departments between what the ARP funds could be used for and what the city plans on using the increased tax revenue for. However, he stressed that there is no project overlap between both sources of funds.
“The ARP funds and the tax money that’s being discussed for the November election are for different types of projects… in being spent in some of the same departments, but for different projects,” he said.
If the tax rate is passed through the November election, officials have previously stated that the extra funds will go towards the following projects:
- Improvements for parks, athletic fields, trails, other facility and maintenance needs;
- Six new police department personnel, associated vehicles and equipment;
- Additional police/fire equipment;
- Street pothole repairs and resurfacing;
- Pay adjustments for Amarillo Emergency Communications Center staff;
- A 1% increase in compensation for police, fire and city employees.
For the ARP funds, which have not yet been voted on by the Amarillo City Council, Miller said they are enhancing what the city already does.
“They’re providing funds to do specific types of projects, like enhance our training so we can have more police officers trained and on the streets to address the rise in gun violence that we’ve experienced all as a nation through Coronavirus, to also enhancing parks in low-and moderate-income areas,” Miller said.
Miller said the uses of the ARP funds have not been finalized yet. Officials have previously stated that the use of the ARP funds is expected to be voted on during an October meeting of the Amarillo City Council.