Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A little tax and a lot of money

As the ABC7 Amarillo investigative team reported earlier this evening, reporters looked at the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., it learned that every purchase in Amarillo subject to sales tax sends one-half penny to the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. And that adds up to a tidy sum. That sales tax also pays for the salaries, operations as well as travels and a pool of money for loans, buildings and other items, the projected operational budget for the fiscal year ending in September is almost $1.9 million, with almost 40 percent of that in salaries.

According to the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. Managerial Report (see below) for the five months ending on Feb 29, 2016, the organization is sitting on $3.2 million in operating equity and $68 million in project equity.

The AEDC has this and other reports on its website; and, while this seems to be transparent, not that this public document states “Restricted to management only, notes are not presented.” But, notes are an integral part of financial documents.

The ABC7 Amarillo reporters learned that the AEDC is subject to the state sunshine laws because it is tax-supported and a contractor to carry out city functions. But, as a separate organization, it is not subject to the city’s rules for accountability for travel, reimbursement and other policies.

But, did the AEDC have its own policies? Yes and no.

“Well we do have policies, we just don’t have written policies” Interim CEO Doug Nelson told ABC7 Amarillo’s Niccole Caan.

And that, essentially, gives AEDC employees carte blanche for travel, hotel, meals, golf games, clothing and equipment, including former CEO Richard “Buzz” David the authority to approve his own travel. Officials with the city told ABC7 Amarillo that the AEDC has had “clean” audits with the same firm that audits the city’s books, so seemingly no red flags came up. It isn’t clear whether those warnings should have occurred.

According to the AEDC’s own website, where it has 2014 and 2015 annual reports, the organization brought in two new businesses for a total of 320 jobs; and, in the 26 years of existence, the AEDC claimed it attracted or relocated 34 businesses while expanding 138 more.