The tax bill in Potter County is about to go up for Amarillo-area taxpayers, with a brand-new debt acquisition being approved by commissioners.

Recently, the Potter County Commissioners Court voted 3-1 to approve issuing $54 million in certificates of obligation to build a new district courts building for Amarillo. The current district courts building was constructed in 1987, although county officials have long expressed concerns about structural and maintenance issues at the building.

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner told KAMR-TV earlier this year that she supported using certificates of obligation to pay for the project, with concerns that voters could vote the project down if placed on the ballot.

“If we do a bond election, it could fail. I’m not trying to hide anything from the taxpayer; I certainly am not. All I am asking for them to do is to walk through that building, and they will know why we are in such a necessity for a new building,” Tanner said.

However, not all commissioners were in favor of taking on the debt. Commissioner Mercy Murguia, one of two Democrats on the commission, said she opposed the debt, feeling the project should have been sent to voters.

“I still fundamentally believe this debt should have gone to the voters instead of [certificates of obligation],” Murguia said following the vote.

Murguia also said approving debt for the courthouse project could tie the hands of Potter County on larger projects in the future.

“I want to make sure the other players of the county recognize it’s going to be really hard to do another project with debt,” Murguia said, mentioning additional needs at the Santa Fe Building and other county-owned facilities.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in March 2020.

Thomas Warren

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