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How Much Local Government Debt Are You Responsible For?

Updated: Thursday, May 30 2013, 10:02 PM CDT

Nearly $200 billion -- that's how much debt local governments in Texas have racked up, according to a report by the Texas comptroller.

And the report says a big chunk comes from cities.

So do you know how much you're responsible for?

KEYE TV chose four Central Texas cities at random to take a look at what they owe and what you're paying.

In Dripping Springs the total tax supported debt is around $8 million. That total debt outstanding per capita is about $2,300.

People in Round Rock pay roughly the same, but they're supporting about $120 million of debt.

And in San Marcos tax supported debt is $71 million.

"We've really focused on putting money aside to cash fund a lot of those things instead of issuing debt if possible," said San Marcos Assistant City Manager Steve Parker.

Parker says a lot of the money is going toward roads, development, and city improvements.

"Sound finances are the number one issue here at the City of San Marcos, and they've made a plan to build on that," said Parker. "We've told them if they follow these policies we will get them to a point where San Marcos is to be proud of."

Parker says San Marcos is the fastest growing city in the country with a population over 50,000. While the money to pay down the debt comes from property taxes, a lot of the voter approved debt is being paid back by the state and other entities they've partnered with -- forging a relationship between the local government and the private sector to create a better city.

Austin has about $1 billion in outstanding debt.

"Your tax bill, about $240 a year, is going towards paying for some massive big infrastructure projects, like these flyovers here at MoPac and 290," said Deputy Chief Financial Officer Greg Canally.

They City of Austin issued the voter approved debt to make an investment in the community.

"Investments in transportation, improving streets, adding new streets, adding new sidewalks, also in our parks," said Canally. "We think the citizens being engaged is critical in not only where the money comes from or how it's being paid, but where it goes and the projects they have asked for over time."

Canally says the investments have had a good return because they've improved Austin's quality of life and help attract businesses and families.

All these numbers come from cities and the Texas Comptroller's Office, which says cities' debts increased by more than 50 percent from 2003 and 2011.

The Texas Comptroller released the numbers on her website to help create transparency within the state.

"All I'm trying to do is really get people to penetrate the almost the steel wall around this information, so that you can find out and you can decide for yourself do you want to pay for it or not," said State Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs.

It's a lot of numbers, but important to know where you stand.

For more information on where your city stands here is a link to the comptroller's website: http://www.texastransparency.org/yourmoney/localdebt/cities/city-map.php.

By Adam RacusinHow Much Local Government Debt Are You Responsible For?


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