City commissioners set tax rate

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The Pampa City Commissioners met on Monday evening for their first regularly-scheduled meeting in the month of September. Karen McLain was present via the Internet.

This was a particularly important meeting as it was the second reading of the budget and the first vote on the tax rate.

While no one wanted to speak during the public hearing portion of the meeting, two citizens, Sena Brainard and Gary Sutherland, addressed the commissioners during that particular item on the agenda.

“In the past, Pampa was the hub of the Eastern Texas Panhandle,” Brainard said. “As people needed to move into town to go to school or because of weather or whatever, there were families who would buy a second home here. There were Dallas/Austin businessmen, people from San Diego, Calif. and Phoenix, Ari. who would have second homes and condominiums. 

“When you ask how will this tax rate affect us, those people can’t declare their second home/condominium as a homestead. They are paying the full rate on their appraisal. You’ve priced yourselves out of those people.”

Brainard added those people are now buying their second homes in Amarillo and added she is not against a slight increase in taxes, but she doesn’t want Pampa to have mostly commuters as part of the workforce.

“I don’t want Pampa to become like Borger where there is 51 percent that do not live in our community, do not have a second home and are not contributing to our community,” Brainard said.

Gary Sutherland addressed the commissioners next and said he was committed to the community and appreciates what the commissioners are doing.

“I have a commitment to this community,” Sutherland said. “We’ve been here 43 years and my sons live here, my grandkids live here and my great-grandkids live here. We have a commitment to this. I understand this is a tough decision you’re doing but I think it’s time we stop kicking the can down the road.”

Sutherland then presented the commissioners with a check as a donation.

Mayor Brad Pingel then reminded those in attendance that municipalities set their budget first followed by the tax rate. 

“I said this from the very beginning, I’m not in favor of the 77 cents,” Pingel said. “I’d like to see us go to maybe 70 cents and take the other three cents out of fund balance, making it a three-cent increase.”

Commissioner Gary Winton said he agreed with the mayor on 70 cents, stating the 77 cents was “excessive.”

Commissioner Jimmy Keough said he was worried about next year and is not interested in dipping into the fund balance.

Commissioner Matt Rains asked city manager Shane Stokes if some new legislation coming in the next year will make it difficult for cities the size of Pampa to build a fund balance.

“That is correct,” Stokes said. “If you use our current rate and that law was in effect this year we would go down slightly from our current rate to get under the three percent cap.”

After the confirmation, Rains proposed going to 73 cents.

McLain said she wanted a rate that would support the budget without going into reserves.

Regardless of the new tax rate, an amendment was required and Pingel made the first motion to amend the tax rate to 70 cents.

“I would make the motion for an amendment to change the tax rate to .70700,” Pingel said. 

Winton seconded the motion. The amendment failed after McLain, Keough and Rains voted against the amendment.

Rains then made a motion to make an amendment.

“I make an amendment that we set the rate .73 to support the budget,” Rains said.

Keough seconded the motion. This amendment passed 3-2 with McLain voting in favor and Pingel and Winton voting against.

With the original motion now stating the new tax rate will be .73, the original motion also passed 3-2. Rains, McLain and Keough voted “yes” while Pingel and Winton voted “no.”

The increase will be reflected on a $61,0000 home (the average in Pampa) at $33/year and $53/year on a $100,000 home.

The commissioners also approved the following items:

• Minutes of the August 26, 2019 Public Hearings/Regular Commission Meeting as presented.

• Approving Gray County Appraisal District’s 2020 Operating Budget.

• City Manager to enter into a Professional Engineering Services Agreement with Parkhill Smith & Cooper, Inc., for the 2019-2020 Pampa Prison Lift Station Improvements Project.

• Second and final reading Ordinance No. 1725, an Ordinance of the City of Pampa adopting its Operating Budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

CONSENT AGENDA - All Consent Agenda items are considered routine in nature by the Commission and will be enacted by one motion. There will be no separate discussion on these items unless a Commissioner so requests, in which event that item will be removed from the Consent Agenda and considered in normal sequence on the Agenda.

• Reappointing Dick Stowers, Lynn Allison and Roy Morriss to the Board of Adjustments for a two (2) year term beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2021.

• Reappointing Carl Novian, Bobby Bums, Josh Crawford and Kevin Redding to the Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals for a two (2) year term beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2021.

• Reappointing Jeri Erickson and John Mead to the Lovett Memorial Library Advisory Board for a two (2) year term beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2021.

• Reappointing Audrey Meaker, Harold Price and Rachel Schmidt to the Planning & Zoning Commission for a two (2) year term beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2021.

• Reappointing Tom Lindsey and Chuck Morgan to the Hidden Hills Golf Advisory Board for a two (2) year term beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2021.

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