Despite original assurances that the special sales tax would only be used to pay the debt on a sports complex, Midland taxpayers could face a property tax hike and increased fees if voters don’t reauthorize the tax later this year.

That was the message Midland’s mayor, Jerry Morales, delivered to a local Republican women’s club.

Many local residents have criticized the ballot language the city council proposed in February to repurpose the existing “4B” sales tax. This mainly stemmed from a perceived lack of transparency and accountability in the language, which put very few limitations on how city officials could spend the tax dollars. Subsequently, the council tabled the decision and planned to place it on the November ballot. In an effort to demonstrate what specific plans the council has for the new tax, Morales presented park renderings as well as the estimated costs.

He prefaced the presentation by noting that $2-3 million of the revenue would annually go towards the maintenance of the Midland Sports Complex.  In addition, it would pay for a number of new sports facilities and the renovation of several older facilities.

The new projects included a “Beal Park Soccer Game Complex” (which would be comprised of 60 soccer and cricket fields) costing approximately $14 million, a multi-purpose indoor sports facility also estimated at $14 million, and an indoor amphitheater. Renovations included a $17 million renovation to Reyes, Mashburn, and Nelmes field, a $20 million renovation to Hogan Park, and a $4 million renovation to Washington Pool, to name a few.

Morales noted that while most councilmembers were on board with the reallocation of the 4B, Councilman Jeff Sparks was not. He continued to explain that Sparks believed that the city needed to raise the money and then build parks instead of taxing the community and taking on more debt. Conversely, Morales said he would like to see new parks much sooner, stating residents shouldn’t have to go to cities like Lubbock and Dallas to play in “first class” facilities.

However, a question was raised during Q&A of how the city plans to pay for the maintenance of the complex should the 4B fail in November. Morales said that the fees associated with the sports complex would likely increase as well as property taxes. In a response, audience member Mark Kimball reminded the mayor that when the city asked the community to pass the original 4B tax, they were told that payments for the complex would not continue once the debt was paid off. However, now the community is faced with a venue that is not self-sustaining and will be heavily dependent on tax dollars for years to come.

Based on history, it’s likely that the projects being presented by the city council now will, too, be dependent on tax dollars long after their respective “4B tax” has expired.

Despite the fact that the complex is not self-sustaining, proponents of the repurposed 4B claim that the Midland Sports Complex has benefitted the community greatly by incentivizing development around it – such as new housing communities and retail – which in turn, has brought in more tax revenue. However, that claim has never been supported by factual evidence.

Despite Midland being one of the oil and gas capitals of the world and a breeding ground for entrepreneurialism, the city believes it is not the free market that has brought in families, developers, and investors, but it is a tax-funded sports complex. Give credit where credit is due. Most would argue it’s not the latter.

Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau of Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.