Tuesday election adds $5 billion in new Texas local government debt

Based on Tuesday’s numbers, Texas voters are continuing their love affair with spending and debt. With 70+ local taxing entities asking voters to approve more than $5 billion in new bond packages, voters came through by approving nearly $4 billion of new debt. Of course add the interest elected officials routinely neglect to mention when discussing all those “for the children” proposals – roughly 40 percent of the principal – and the number is closer to $5.4 billion.

With Texas pre-election local government debt standing at $322 billion, second only to California in total debt and second only to New York in per capita debt, the Lone Star State is closing in on $330 billion.

In this week’s election, school districts, the largest growth sector of outstanding local government debt, continued dominating the run on new public dollars. Cities, counties and other special purpose districts, however, were as well in there trolling for new hard-earned taxpayer treasure.

The big dollar-scoring school districts include Alvin ISD with $212.4 million, Denton ISD with $312.5 million, Fort Worth ISD with $490 million, Laredo ISD with $125 million and United ISD with $409 million.

In remembering that all things are relative, however, the passage of $65 million by Calhoun County ISD, a district in Port Lavaca with 4,263 students, is hardly insignificant. The same can be said of Cuero ISD with 1,870 students passing $76 million.

School districts failing to bring in the big scores include Comal ISD and its $451 million package, Katy ISD and its $99 million package that included $69.6 million for a 12,000-seat football stadium.

With the bond failures, relativity is again interesting to note. Lovejoy ISD with its 3,214 students rejected a $75.75 million package while Gilmer ISD, a district with 2,350 students, rejected $36.2 million in new debt. Blanket ISD with 227 students declined $3.7 million.

With cities, Round Rock passed $123.6 million, Carrollton passed $75 million and Austin finally got its $65 million affordable housing proposal, the only proposition to fail in the November 2012 election, across the finish line.

On the other side, Amarillo rejected a $30 million package, Corpus Christi $45 million. Marble Falls with its 2012 population count of 6,090 said no to $3.1 million. Same for the 4,491 residents of Krum when asked to approve $2.3 million.

And then there were the counties. Williamson County got its $315 million, Fort Bend County got $184.9 million while Kaufman County passed $75.9 million.

Mixed results came for Harris County as the $70 million new inmate processing facility was passed while the $217 million Astrodome conversion was voted down. Kaufman County voters passed $56 million for road improvements, but rejected $19.9 million for a new justice center.

Ector County residents rejected outright $95 million for a new county courthouse.

With the November 2012 election, statewide a total of $5.7 billion in bonds were on ballots. Texas voters embraced debt level largesse by approving nearly all of it, $5.5 billion – $7.7 billion upon adding the interest.

Bonds proposed this election were similar with $5.2 billion being sought. With $3.9 billion – $5.4 billion with interest – passed this round, today’s taxpayers still don’t seem engaged with the devastating consequences their endless spending is creating, consequences that will impact future generations for decades to come.

Texas’ local debt has grown 72% in the past 10 years. We are second only to California – viewed by many as America’s version of Greece.

Is that the legacy we want to leave?

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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