News and Releases
Tax Funding Halved for Several Texas-side Non-profits
By: Everett Clinton - Texarkana Gazette
The Texarkana, Texas, City Council decision Monday night to cut by half its support to several agencies funded by the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax came as no surprise. In a 4 to 1 vote the council decided to fund recipients of the city’s hotel/motel tax revenues at 100 percent for half of the next fiscal year meaning another source of funding would have to emerge to cover costs from April 1 to Oct. 1, 2016. In a meeting earlier this month the council suggested funding requests be fulfilled for six months and proposed a venue tax could later be approved to partially support recipient organizations for the remainder of the fiscal year.
City officials expressed their opinion regarding the slim chances such a tax has of being implemented. City staff does not feel the venue tax is a viable option at this time stating “there are too many roadblocks in that path,” and that it will be difficult to get Attorney General Ken Paxton’s approval on the issue. City Manager John Whitson said there is certainly no harm in seeking a response from Paxton, but “his estimation is that we would not get an answer back in time for the November election.”
Several agencies will feel the effect of the significant loss in budgeted funds including Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Texarkana whose executive director Ina McDowell said she is happy that a portion of funding was approved but that a plan with long-term solutions is needed.
“I’m glad the plan that was presented by council at the last meeting was passed tonight,” McDowell said. “However, this is short term and I look forward to working with the city staff and the agencies on a long-term option that helps support our downtown attractions.”
During the meting, the Main Street director said since the July 13 council meeting she has met with members of the affected agencies in attempts to come up with a solution. McDowell said even if the venue tax option were to pass she and the other agencies knew those funds would not be immediately available so they have been trying to come up with a “plan B.”
Also on Monday’s agenda was a public hearing authorizing Whitson to enter into a purchase agreement with Motorola Solutions. The agreement was made through an inter-local agreement with Houston-Galveston Area Council, a region-wide voluntary association of local governments. The agreement allows for the purchase and installation of public safety communications equipment at a proposed amount of $1,150,000 with a 10 year maintenance plan in the the amount of $480,000.
There was another public hearing releasing former Pecan Point owner John Hubbard as a guarantor of loans to the downtown restaurant. A third hearing asking for the council’s guidance concerning the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No.1 took place during the meeting. A motion to allow the council’s vote on both items was passed and both item were approved unanimously.
In other council news, Whitson and Jim Cornelius of Texarkana Water Utilities presented city budget estimates and expenditures for the current and next fiscal years. Also Director of Planning and Community Development David Orr presented information supporting the redevelopment of Hotel Grim in the form of a community development grant and an Environmental Protection Agency loan.
The next scheduled meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. at Texarkana City Hall.
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