Texas Bond Propositions: The Rising Tide of Property Tax Burdens and Voter Paradox

November 16, 2023
TFR Staff
Bonds, Debt, Local Government, Property Tax, Spending

One of the perhaps most underreported outcomes of last week’s election is the overwhelming success of local bond propositions, especially those that will further increase the already rapidly growing property tax burden on Texas taxpayers.

Collectively, Texas voters considered nearly 200 separate local bond propositions estimated at an initial cost of nearly $24.4 billion. Those propositions originated at the city, county, school district, and special purpose district levels and had varying degrees of success around the state.

Of the nearly 200 propositions, 131 of them originated from school districts.

The “Good” & Bad News

The good news is many of the overtly frivolous bond propositions failed.

For example, Prosper Independent School District (ISD) attempted to propose a bond seeking $94 million for a stadium alone. It was one of four total propositions in a package totaling nearly $2.4 billion altogether. The stadium proposition failed but the other three propositions seeking to get funding for new school buildings, new district facilities, technology upgrades, and the construction of a new performing arts center all passed.

Similarly, Conroe ISD had a bond proposition package totaling $1.82 billion. Of the four propositions, only one failed, which attempted to get $22.9 million for a new pool and renovate the existing natatorium. Conroe ISD voters still approved $1.8 billion for a total of eight new schools and additions and renovations for existing schools. They also approved propositions allocating millions of dollars for new technology and device upgrades as well as a new agriculture barn and physical education classrooms and gymnasiums.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing results was that of Midland ISD. For years Midland ISD voters pushed back against onerous proposals but this cycle they approved a $1.415 billion bond proposal that will fund two new high schools, a new elementary school, renovations to two middle schools, and improvements to existing district facilities, among other items.

An exhaustive list of all of the bond proposals will eventually be provided by the Texas Bond Review Board.

The Ugly News

By approving billions of dollars in new debt across the state property tax burdens will only continue to increase on Texas taxpayers. Voters largely approved of all of this in spite of simultaneously complaining about the growing tax burden and cost of living in recent cycles, marking an odd paradox that continues to exist in Texas politics.

According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF),

“In Fiscal year (FY) 2022, the amount of unpaid principal on debts held by cities, counties, school districts, and special districts stood at $284.2 billion, with approximately two thirds of that total taking the form of general obligation debt paid through property taxes. From FY 2018 to FY 2022, local debt outstanding increased by $53.5 billion or 23.2%.”

Texas Public Policy Foundation, Just the Facts: Government Debt in Texas’ Most Populkous Cities, Counties, and School Districts, 2nd Edition

The “ugly” news is that there seems to be no reprieve for both current and future generations of Texas taxpayers on the horizon. Though legislation existed to address the growing issue of local debt in Texas in the most recent legislative sessions, lawmakers chose not to address the issue.

What Can You Do About It?

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) has written several times about the need to address runaway local government spending and ways to fix the problems that are created as a result. Though the state as a whole benefits from a currently strong economy its fiscal health is concerning and in many ways not trending in the right direction.

Texans are already suffering from rampant inflation and increases in the cost of living as a result of obscene government spending at the federal and state levels. Continuing the spending spree at the local level will not help that situation and only add fuel to the fire.

Now is the time for taxpayers to get involved at the local level and make their voices heard: 

No more tax increases, or we’ll vote you out!”

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