The City of Amarillo will be appealing a recent decision by an Amarillo district court judge invalidating a debt issuance approved earlier this year for a new civic center complex.

According to an announcement from the City of Amarillo, officials plan to appeal the decision handed down by Judge William Sowder last month in favor of businessman Alex Fairly. Fairly filed a lawsuit against the City of Amarillo after the city council voted 4-1 to issue more than $260 million in tax anticipation notes for a new civic center complex, despite voter rejection of the plan in 2016 and 2020.

In Sowder’s decision, the judge ruled that the city council broke state law when issuing the debt and declared the debt issuance invalid.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson issued a statement last week announcing the City of Amarillo will appeal the decision, saying the City is interested in “clarification on existing state law.”

“While we can’t proceed with the project at this time, this ruling creates confusion around several standard operating procedures and will interfere with the city’s ability to operate in the normal course of business,” Nelson said. “We are seeking clarification on existing state law. We have a responsibility to clarify how debt can be issued going forward because, like every city in Texas, the city council will have to continue to issue debt to operate the city. As for the civic center problem, it isn’t going away.”

Regardless of whether the appeal is successful, legislators have already signaled an interest in addressing the tax anticipation note debt tool during the next legislative session. According to a report from The Texan, Fairly said he has spoken with several legislators eager to address the issue in 2023.

Thomas Warren

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

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