On Tuesday, Amarillo City Council members voted to issue $7 million in taxpayer-funded debt to replace lighting in Amarillo parks.

During the city council’s regular meeting, council members voted 4-1 to approve the notification of the City of Amarillo’s intention to issue certificates of obligation to fund $7 million in repairs and improvements to lighting systems in local parks. The vote was taken as the first step in the process leading to the final issuance of the debt.

Councilman Cole Stanley cast the sole vote against issuing the debt, saying that a bond election would be a better option for the item, allowing local taxpayers the chance to decide whether they want to fund the project. Mayor Ginger Nelson opposed Stanley, however, saying that she believes the project to be one needed for public safety purposes.

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.

With the vote, the city council has effectively bypassed the will of citizens yet again, following a recent election in which voters declined to support a proposed 24 percent tax increase ratification that officials said would, in part, fund improvements to local parks. That item was defeated in November 2021, with 55 percent of voters voting against the proposal.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.


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