As Texans, we like to brag about how big everything is. One thing we don’t like to brag about is how much debt we have.
Sadly, Texas has the second-highest local debt-per-person in the nation – second only to New York. That’s “yuuge,” as one New Yorker might say. Me? I tend to call it “bad.”
Texas’ debt is almost exclusively issued by local taxing entities – cities, schools and special districts. Billions and billions of dollars in debt. Some of it makes sense, some of it doesn’t.
For example, Grapevine ISD is asking voters to increase debt by 80 percent to build new buildings… despite declining enrollment. (Well, the district isn’t actually saying they want to increase their debt by 80 percent. They don’t even mention the existing debt, which is one of the highest per student in the Metroplex. They’re also forcing voters to make an “all-or-nothing” decision – to get new security systems in the classrooms, voters also have to approve a multi-million-dollar sports complex.)
This debt leads to higher property taxes. It must, because the debt has to be repaid.
Maybe you’re OK with higher debt and higher property taxes, and maybe you’re not. But I’d suggest all of us should be more deeply involved in local issues that affect our daily lives. They also hit our pocketbooks more directly, and often at higher levels, than federal and state issues.
But those school board and city council races also tend to be the ones with the lowest levels of voter participation.
Early voting starts tomorrow (Monday, April 25) ahead of Election Day on Saturday, May 7th. There’s still time to learn about local bond issues and candidates.
For Texas to be strong, Texans have to participate. We still get—and pay for—the government we choose to ignore.