By John Lee | [email protected] | Twitter: @jcl1987
The Gray County Court of Commissioners convened Friday morning for a regular 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 clearest opinion the company could give.
“In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above are presented fairly and, in all material respects, the financial condition of Gray County for the fiscal year 2021,” Merriss read in the report. “That is the clearest opinion we can give. We had a couple of journal entries to give to the county auditor and they were very, very minor things. For a county your size, this is unheard of. It’s a testament to the quality of the books that your officials keep.
Merriss later noted that the county had room to collect taxes by raising rates.
“If you max out your tax rate by sixty cents (maintenance and operations), you could generate an additional $2.8 million in revenue,” Merriss said. “In the roads and bridges fund, if you max out the tax rate by thirty cents, you could generate another $3.2 million. What this says to your readers/taxpayers, in addition to the excellent cash and equity reserves we’ve already discussed, the county’s ability to get into debt and maneuver within the limits of the tax rate, you are left with all the tools available to handle any situation that may arise unexpectedly.
Merriss added that the county also has 7.9 months of disaster reserves.
The commissioners approved the audit.
Later in the meeting, the commissioners thoroughly discussed the possibility of joining the Investment Tax Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) with the City of Pampa regarding downtown Pampa.
Commissioner Jeff Haley, who was leading the meeting in Porter’s absence, provided an overview of the TIRZ and what it means for the county.
Essentially, revenue from base values for the county on area properties will not change and the county will give the city any additional revenue from increases in the TIRZ fund.
Haley asked City Manager Shane Stokes what improvements the city hopes to make over the 25-year project.
“There are a lot of different things,” Stokes said. “These are infrastructure improvements and some TIRZs will offer grants to owners for facade improvements through a matching grant. It can be used for sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, lampposts, water, sewers, etc.
Haley verified that this was not a new tax or a tax increase and that there should be no increased workload for the county tax office or pressure implied on the Gray County Assessment District for properties in the area to have higher values. .
“It’s pretty much what it is,” Stokes said. “There is a preliminary project and a financing plan and this is where assumptions were made and our consultant spoke to Tyson (Paronto, Gray CAD) to propose the properties and plots in this area with their value. Careful assumptions were made about what the TIRZ could do over 25 years.
The TIRZ council to be created, composed of five members appointed by the city of Pampa and two appointed by the county, will lead the financing plans for the project.
Commissioner Logan Hudson asked what keeps new investors coming to town.
“I’m hoping that if you improve the infrastructure, and it could be as simple as new sidewalks, facade improvements or new lighting, the investor will say ‘They’re doing something downtown, I want to move there. my business,” Stokes said. “They buy a property, they make improvements and that increases the value that goes into the fund that can make more improvements. That’s the hope.
The incentives do not take the form of tax relief.
Haley stated in favor of TIRZ membership that Pampa is the county seat and is in downtown Pampa.
“The total area of the zone is 242 acres,” Haley said. “The land use in the area is 122 acres (the rest is streets and railways). It’s a pretty small area. But it is the heart of the city, which is the county seat of our county. It’s pretty important to help stimulate that.
Commissioners voted in favor of TIRZ for 100% involvement for the full 25 years.
The Commissioners filed the following:
• Minutes of previous meeting.
• Updated county road crossing policy.
The Commissioners approved the following:
• Approval for the replacement of an employee in the office of the tax assessor/collector
• 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 approved by the county auditor
• No burning, in effect for 30 days.