ECONOMY

Leander ISD's Whitestone Elementary School, shown on Aug. 21, 2014, has six portable classrooms to help with increased student enrollment.  District officials say If the district couldn't use capital appreciation bonds to borrow money, it would have to put more students in portables.
Leander ISD's Whitestone Elementary School, shown on Aug. 21, 2014, has six portable classrooms to help with increased student enrollment. District officials say If the district couldn't use capital appreciation bonds to borrow money, it would have to put more students in portables.

Swelling School Districts Find a Costly Way to Grow Within State Debt Limits

Leander and other fast-growing school districts have relied heavily on a controversial financing tool called capital appreciation bonds to borrow money to expand even as they bump up against state limits on school district debt.

Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid spoke during an Aug. 11, 2014, town hall meeting, where attendees debated whether to put a $175 million bond up to Keller ISD voters in the general election.
Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid spoke during an Aug. 11, 2014, town hall meeting, where attendees debated whether to put a $175 million bond up to Keller ISD voters in the general election.

Critics Say Bond Elections Lack True Transparency

Texas voters approve billions of dollars in new local debt each year. A growing group of critics argues that voters wouldn't be so agreeable if they were more clearly informed of the debt that's already owed in their name.

Between cities, school districts and counties, more than half of all Texans live in areas where the bill for taxpayer-supported debt, including expected interest, totals more than $1 billion, according to state data analyzed by The Texas Tribune.
Between cities, school districts and counties, more than half of all Texans live in areas where the bill for taxpayer-supported debt, including expected interest, totals more than $1 billion, according to state data analyzed by The Texas Tribune.

Local Debt Climbs as Cities Deal With Growth

Texas cities, counties and school districts are relying more on debt to maintain services in a fast-growing state. While critics argue communities need to work harder to live within their means, local officials say the issue is not that simple.

Critics Say Bond Elections Lack True Transparency

Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid spoke during an Aug. 11, 2014, town hall meeting, where attendees debated whether to put a $175 million bond up to Keller ISD voters in the general election.
Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid spoke during an Aug. 11, 2014, town hall meeting, where attendees debated whether to put a $175 million bond up to Keller ISD voters in the general election.

Texas voters approve billions of dollars in new local debt each year. A growing group of critics argues that voters wouldn't be so agreeable if they were more clearly informed of the debt that's already owed in their name.

Local Debt Climbs as Cities Deal With Growth

Between cities, school districts and counties, more than half of all Texans live in areas where the bill for taxpayer-supported debt, including expected interest, totals more than $1 billion, according to state data analyzed by The Texas Tribune.
Between cities, school districts and counties, more than half of all Texans live in areas where the bill for taxpayer-supported debt, including expected interest, totals more than $1 billion, according to state data analyzed by The Texas Tribune.

Texas cities, counties and school districts are relying more on debt to maintain services in a fast-growing state. While critics argue communities need to work harder to live within their means, local officials say the issue is not that simple.

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Senators Debate Funding, Merits of National Guard Deployment

Sen. Jane Nelson R-Flower Mound, is shown listening to testimony during a Health and Human Services committee hearing on Feb. 19, 2013. Nelson was named chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee in July 2014.
Sen. Jane Nelson R-Flower Mound, is shown listening to testimony during a Health and Human Services committee hearing on Feb. 19, 2013. Nelson was named chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee in July 2014.

At a state Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, senators debated the merits and tactical strategies of Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to send Texas National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some Texas Cities Turn to Higher Water Impact Fees

Real estate developers building new homes are facing higher water impact fees in Austin, San Antonio and other Texas jurisdictions.
Real estate developers building new homes are facing higher water impact fees in Austin, San Antonio and other Texas jurisdictions.

As cities across Texas continue to spread out, water suppliers and local governments are faced with the question of who should pay for building the infrastructure needed to handle the growth.

Some Lawmakers Want Legislative Changes to Avoid Fertilizer Blasts

A vehicle near the remains of a fertilizer plant burning after an explosion in West, Texas, near Waco.
A vehicle near the remains of a fertilizer plant burning after an explosion in West, Texas, near Waco.

A committee of Texas lawmakers met Tuesday to discuss possible legislation aimed at preventing another disaster like last year’s explosion in West — with some still skeptical of imposing regulations on fertilizer storage facilities.

 

Denton Fracking Ban Could Spur Legal Clash

A gas well last fracked in March sits 385 feet from Debbie Ingram's home in Argyle, Texas on July 22, 2014.
A gas well last fracked in March sits 385 feet from Debbie Ingram's home in Argyle, Texas on July 22, 2014.

A North Texas town's effort to ban hydraulic fracturing may prompt an unprecedented showdown between two powerful rights: a city's authority to shape development and mineral owners' right to tap their resources.