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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Amarillo Council to Consider Issuing $35M in Taxpayer-Funded Debt

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Amarillo City Council members will consider taking the first step on Tuesday toward issuing certificates of obligation for a new city hall.

On Tuesday, the Amarillo City Council will vote on an item that would publish a notice of intention to issue up to $35,000,000 for a new government complex building. According to a memo from city staff that was attached to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, the item would fund the demolition of the existing Amarillo City Hall building, as well as renovations to a vacant warehouse downtown that was recently purchased by the city council as the possible site for a new city hall.

According to the Texas Comptroller’s website, COs, which are paid off using property tax revenues, are often associated with emergency spending by government entities. However, since state law doesn’t limit their usage to only emergency purposes, local governments frequently use them for luxury spending projects instead of using general obligation bonds—which require voter approval.

A relocation of Amarillo City Hall was originally included as part of a $319 million spending package for downtown facilities and entertainment projects that was put before voters in November 2020, of which a $275 million bond was set to fund the majority of that package. Voters defeated that item by a 62-38 percent margin. Despite the item’s failure, the city appears to be moving forward with at least the city hall portion of that package.

While the city council appears to be considering the move, citizens who are opposed to the measure still have time to make their voices heard. Tom Scherlen, a retired Amarillo business executive and former city council candidate, posted on social media over the weekend, calling on Amarillo taxpayers to contact their elected officials and urge them to oppose the agenda item.

“Six months ago we

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