The Gray County Commissioners Court met on Friday morning for a regularly-scheduled meeting. County Judge Chris Porter was absent for the meeting.
The Commissioners heard their financial audit from John Merriss of Doshier Pickens and Francis, who gave the County the cleanest opinion the firm can give.
“In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above are presented fairly and, in all material respects, the financial position of Gray County for fiscal year 2021,” Merriss read from the report. “It’s the cleanest opinion we can give. We had two or three journal entries to give to the County Auditor and they were all very, very minor things. For a county your size, that’s unheard of. That’s a testament to the quality of books your officials are keeping.”
Merriss later noted there was room for the County to collect on taxes by raising the rates.
“Were you to max out your sixty cent (maintenance and operations) tax rate, you could generate another $2.8 million of revenue,” Merriss said. “In the road and bridge fund, if you were to max out the full thirty cent tax rate, you could generate an additional $3.2 million dollars. What this tells your readers/tax-payers, in addition to the excellent cash and equity reserves we already talked about, the County’s ability to take on debt and maneuver within the tax rate, you’ve left yourself every tool available to handle any situation that may unexpectedly pop up.”
Merriss added the County is also sitting on 7.9 months worth of reserves in the event of a disaster.
The Commissioners approved the audit.
Later in the meeting, the Commissioners thoroughly discussed the possibility of joining the tax investment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) with the City of Pampa concerning down-town Pampa.
Commissioner Jeff Haley, who was leading the meeting in Porter’s absence, gave an overview of the TIRZ and what it meant to the County.
Essentially the revenue off of base values to the County on the properties in the zone will not change and the County will give the City whatever additional revenue off of increases for the TIRZ fund.
Haley asked City Manager Shane Stokes what the improvements are the City is hoping to make during the 25-year project.
“There’s a lot of different things,” Stokes said. “It’s infrastructure improvements and some TIRZ will offer grants to property owners for facade improvements through a matching grant. It can be used for sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street-lights, water, sewer, etc.”
Haley verified that it wasn’t a new tax, or a tax increase and there shouldn’t be an increased work-load for the County tax office or an implied pressure to Gray County Appraisal District to make the properties in the zone have higher values.
“It pretty much is what it is,” Stokes said. “There is a preliminary project and financing plan and that’s where assumptions were made and our consultant talked to Tyson (Paronto, Gray CAD) to come up with the properties and parcels in that zone with their value. Conservative assumptions were made over what the TIRZ might do over 25 years.”
The TIRZ board to be created, with five appointed by the City of Pampa and two appointed by the County, will spear-head the project financing plans.
Commissioner Logan Hudson asked what was the enticement for new investors to come down town.
“My hope is that if you improve infrastructure, and it could be as simple as new sidewalks, facade improvements or new lighting, the investor says ‘They are doing something downtown, I want to move my business there,” Stokes said. “They buy a piece of property, they make improvements and that increases the value that goes into the fund that can make more improvements. That’s the hope.”
The enticements are not in the form of tax abatements.
Haley mentioned in favor of joining the TIRZ the face that Pampa is the County Seat and sits in Downtown Pampa.
“The total acreage of the zone is 242 acres,” Haley said. “The land usage in the zone is 122 acres (the rest are streets and railway). It’s a pretty small area. But it’s the core of town, which is the County Seat of our County. It’s pretty important to help stimulate that.”
The Commissioners voted in favor of the TIRZ for 100 percent involvement for the entirety of the 25 years.
The Commissioners tabled the following:
• Minutes of the previous meeting.
• County Road Crossing Policy Update.
The Commissioners approved the following:
• Approval for Replacement of Employee in Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office
• Transfer of Lot A Hangar from Petro Wings LLC to Reliant Holdings LTO
• Approval of Jeri Ann Woelfle for Notary Public
• Accept County Treasurer’s Report
• Accept County Treasurer’s Quarterly Investment Report
• Pay Bills as Approved by the County Auditor
• Burn ban, in effect for 30 days.
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