City leaders gauge County interest in TIRZ

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The Gray County Commissioners Court met on Wednesday morning for a regularly-scheduled meeting.

In attendance for the meeting was City Manager Shane Stokes and Mayor Lance DeFever, as the City of Pampa pitched the idea to County leaders about the latter’s involvement in the former’s plan for a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).

“It’s basically a tool for local governments to use to finance public improvements to infrastructure improvements within a defined area,” Stokes said. “Ours is defined as the Downtown TIRZ, or TIRZ 1. Future revenues from each participating taxing entity can be used to pay for improvements.”

The way it works is properties within the defined zone will have the base revenue locked in for the next 25 years. Any additional revenue from increases in property values in the zone will go into a separate fund that can be used for improvements.

“There’s about $15 million in this zone,” Stokes said. “When you implement the TIRZ, you don’t change that amount. Each entity will get their tax revenue based on that base amount going forward, no matter what.

“As values increase, as improvements are made and property values increase, that’s the increment and it will go into a fund, a tax increment fund (TIF), and that can be used for improvements for that area and only in that area.”

At the end of the 25 years, then all of the money will go into the general fund for the taxing entities. But at that point, there have been improvements made from the TIF. Areas that have also activated a TIRZ include Borger and Canyon.

Pampa’s TIRZ reaches to the south at Highway 60, through east to Starkweather, north to Browning (but includes the old Frank’s Hardware property) and west to Ward.

The next step is to create a board of directors, which will include seven members with the participating tax entities (City and possibly County) serving on the board.

“If you put this thing in place, in 25 years you’ll be looking at $5.4 million to spend,” Stokes said. “That’s if you did no improvements or anything. But if you look at it and expect to make $5.4 million over 25 years, and you want to make an impact now, you go out, borrow $2.6 million now to do $2.6 million worth of work and you re-pay that with interest (through the TIF).”

Stokes noted he was conservative on estimates. The idea is investing in the property to increase the likelihood it goes past the $5.4 million Stokes mentioned.

“Development creates development,” Stokes said. “You start making improvements and people want to be downtown where [businesses] are making improvements.”

The TIRZ has been created by the City of Pampa, so it goes into affect in January 2022. After the start of the new year, the City intends to formally ask the County if they would like to take part, thus creating a inter-local agreement and their involvement on the board of directors.

County Judge Chris Porter asked how soon Stokes would anticipate the funds being used from the TIF.

“I think it would be a couple of years, depending on what happens,” Stokes said. “I think there will be a pretty good catalyst (to the property value increase) with the [FirstBank Southwest] and some Resound improvements and [Pampa Home and Sleep Store].”

Porter asked if any infrastructure improvements would affect the brick streets as there are water lines running under the brick streets.

“Brick streets won’t change,” Stokes said. “We would pick up the bricks, dig them up, repair them, put the base material back down and lay the bricks down.”

Tax collector/assessor Gaye Whitehead asked if there would be a separate tax rate they would collect from.

“There won’t be a different rate,” Stokes said. “We will just capture the January 2021 base rate. We will adopt our rate, the County will adopt their rate.”

Stokes added a consultant will be in Pampa in January to go over the taxing process with Gray County Appraisal District, the City, the Tax Office and the County, should they decide to take part.

The Commissioners continued to discuss with Stokes and asked for further clarification on some parts of the presentation.

In the end, Stokes noted the end goal is to try and improve downtown Pampa.

“For years and years, we’ve tried to figure how we can do something downtown,” Stokes said. “How can we make improvements downtown? It’s half a million dollars to do half a block of sidewalks. We don’t have half a million laying around.

“We’ve pursued grants, and fortunately, we are getting one this year. We’ll keep pursuing grants on top of this TIRZ. But this a mechanism that can create some improvements in that area.”

The City and County will meet again in January on the topic.

The Commissioners also approved the following items:

• Minutes of the Previous Meeting.

• Reapproval of Bond for Heather Swafford

• Resolution Amending Authorized Representatives for TxPool

• Rates for Vision and Dental Health Insurance

• Adding Anita Russell to Administrator List for Bank of America Credit Cards for the GCSO

• County Clerk’s Monthly Report

• County Clerk’s Bond

• RFP for Gray County Broadband Coverage. This item awards a bid of $1.35 million to Resound to install broadband Internet in Gray County. This will provide Internet access to 88 percent of the county.

• RFP for Replacement of a Motor Grader for Precinct 1. The Commissioners approved the purchase of a 2018 Yellowhouse John Deere.

• Conversion Quote from Hart Intercivic for Upgrade of Election Equipment to Verity Duo System. Last year, the County went full electronic on the election equipment due to the appeal of election integrity. The State of Texas has come back and required paper election equipment, so the devices need to be retro-fitted and is being paid for by the State at $200,000.

• Re-Listing Surplus Generator from Perry Lefors on Purple Wave. This is the second-time this World War II-era generator has been listed on the auction site. The previous bid winner didn’t pay or pick up the generator so the Commissioners approved to re-list the item. Should this listing be unsuccessful, there is a local business owner in town who is interested in the generator.

• County Burn Ban. The burn ban is in effect for 30 days.

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