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City proposes higher tax rate to accommodate growth

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Amarillo, TX - Any time you mention higher taxes, people tend to be reflexively and almost unilaterally opposed.  But the city of Amarillo says an increase of just a few pennies would provide vital public services and much-needed improvements to a rapidly growing community.

The city is proposing a 7.89 percent increase on taxable property, which comes out to about 22 dollars a year for the average home.

"If we went up these two cents from 32 to 34 cents, we would still be below the tax rate of every sister city we have," says Commissioner Ellen Robertson-Green, "so we're still keeping the tax rate low here, but we're trying to accommodate growth and we're trying to accommodate public safety."

The city says the new tax rate would accommodate ten more police officers and eight more firefighters, in addition to new equipment and cost-of-living increases for some city employees.

The city will hold a second public hearing on the issue before taking any action.

Also in today's meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to continue their opposition to the Texas Department of Transportation's "Turnback Program," which would make municipalities responsible for a total of just under 1,900 miles of state-owned roads across Texas - including about 27 miles of roads here in Amarillo.

The Turnback Program is meant to save TxDOT $165 million, but civic leaders across Texas are bristling at the idea.  Mayor Paul Harpole says the program creates an unjustified and unfunded mandate for the city and its taxpayers, saying,

"We sent that money to Austin to take care of the roads they have in our town that are deeded to them, and now they're telling us, 'We're going to let you control those roads, but we're not going to give the money back to take care of them,' which means we have no choice if we get them but to raise taxes on the citizens who have already paid taxes. That's nothing other than double taxation and it's wrong."

Mayor Harpole plans to address TxDOT in Austin, along with many other Texas mayors, to voice the city's opposition directly.

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