Amarillo's city commissioners last week narrowly voted to approve a potential tax increase of 6.9% for fiscal 2010.

In a 3-to-2 vote, the commissioners chose to set the West Texas town's property tax rate at 32.759 cents per $100 of taxable value in the hopes of generating $1.5 million to increase staff. The additional funds would be used to hire 10 police officers and five municipal court employees.

The commission will hold two public hearings on the proposed increase in the next few weeks and make a final decision at its Sept. 15 meeting.

Standard & Poor's recently raised the city's underlying credit to AAA because of a "strong and stable economic base, coupled with good management policies and historically strong financial performance."

Amarillo's location in the Texas panhandle has led to it becoming a regional retail, medical, and service-center base for the area, and the economy has "developed a substantial regional service component over time," according to analysts. The upgrade applies to $89.6 million of debt outstanding.

Moody's Investors Service rates the city's credit Aa2.

The city's tax base averaged growth of 6.7% over the past five years to $9.7 billion for fiscal 2009, which is 37% higher than five years earlier. At least $197 million of new property was added to the tax rolls last year and projections show another tax-base increase of 2.6% for 2010, according to analysts.

Amarillo's current population of more than 190,000 is up about 10% from the 173,627 reported at the 2000 Census.

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