Result of Amarillo’s recent proposition election to impact city services

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Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. Voters in Minneapolis are deciding whether to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety. The election comes more than a year after George Floyd’s death launched a movement to defund or abolish police across the country.(David Joles /Star Tribune via AP)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday’s meeting of the Amarillo City Council, officials are expected to discuss service adjustments to the city’s Parks and Recreation department which could include “potential future park closures,” according to Tuesday’s agenda.

This comes after the city of Amarillo’s tax-related proposition A failed in an election earlier this month. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, 55% of residents voted against the measure, which would have approved a tax rate for the city of Amarillo of $0.48404 for the 2021-22 fiscal year, a 22% increase from the city’s rate of $0.39681 for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Because the measure was voted down, the tax rate for the city of Amarillo is set to be the voter approval tax rate of $0.44334, a rate $0.0407 lower than the rate which was not approved. This voter approval tax rate is still an increase from the city’s rate of $0.39681 for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the extra funds from the increased tax rate were expected to fund the following items:

  • 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.

According to previous reports, this comes after the city approved the parks and recreation department’s master plan in late September. In initial community feedback, officials previously stated that the priorities of the plan will consist of:

  • Maintenance, or replacement, of older park amenities; 
  • Expanding, or improving, athletic facilities; 
  • Adding new parks in underserved areas; 
  • Adding more variety in existing parks.

Michael Kashuba, the city’s parks and recreation director, previously said that if the increase was not approved, it would not impact the department’s master plan. However, the additional funding which would have come would have taken the department to the next level.

“So, we would be looking to utilize best practices in a lot of our park design. So, in areas where our neighborhood parks are, restrooms may not be warranted in those situations, areas that are regional parks, community parks where you’ve got large gatherings where people are walking to those facilities, those types of amenities are more appropriate there,” Kashuba said after September’s city council vote. “So, at this point we’re just looking to start making those improvements that the community has requested.”

Other things, including additional police department personnel, as well as components from the city’s meet and confer agreement with the Amarillo Police Officers’ Association, will not occur after the proposition did not pass. 

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the initial agreement included increases to base pay for officers: 

  • 3% in year one; 
  • 5% in year two; 
  • 4% in year three. 

The agreement also modifies the department’s supplemental shift differential pay for officers working evening/night shifts or weekends and includes an annual leave buyback program for officers with more than 10 years of continuous service with the Amarillo Police Department.

Prior to November’s election, Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said if the proposition did not pass, it would impact the agreement between the city of Amarillo and the Amarillo Police Officer’s Association.

“Council has the authority to make adjustments to the agreement in the case that the voter-approval tax election modifies the city’s ability to meet its funding under the agreement. This is going to be something that every city across the state, that has meet and confer or collective bargaining agreements with their associations, be they fire, police or general… employees. It is a reality that we face from 2019 on,” Miller said during the meeting. “We have to write in an accommodation in the event that any component of the agreement was subject to a voter approval tax rate election, and that election failed, we have to be able to acknowledge that we have to be able to make sure that whatever our agreement is, we have the ability to fund it. Either, our funding changes as a result of the agreement or the agreement changes as a result of an unsuccessful voter approval tax rate election.” 

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