Debt-At-A-Glance

Thousands of Texas cities, counties, school districts and special purpose districts issue debt for a variety of purposes including school and hospital construction and renovation, water infrastructure projects and vehicle and technology purchases.

In 2012, the Comptroller’s office expanded Texas Transparency.org to include information on local debt – including interactive maps that provide a close-up view of the various entities that issue public debt in each Texas county.

To give Texans an even closer look at the local governments that issue debt in their area — and the magnitude of their outstanding debt — the Comptroller’s office presents Debt at a Glance, with detailed information on Texas and local government debt.

The outstanding debt data in Debt at a Glance has been obtained from the Bond Review Board, which compiles data reported by state agencies and local governments that neither the Board nor the Comptroller has independently verified. State agencies are not required to report all installment purchases but certain lease-purchase obligations are included. In addition, some state debt issued before 2006 may not be reflected.

Local governments are not required to report data for debt that is either not considered a public security as defined by state statute or does not require approval by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas such as certain short-term notes, certificates of obligation delivered to contractors, bond anticipation notes and lease purchase agreements for personal property. Additionally, certain installment and lease-purchase obligations and cash defeasances of debt are not reported, while debt issued by a controlled non-profit corporation may be included as debt of its sponsoring city, county, or district. Debt includes principal but excludes interest, including compounded interest on capital appreciation bonds. Data for local debt issued before 2002 is included as estimates of debt outstanding. Outstanding debt excludes debt for which sufficient funds have been escrowed to retire the debt either from proceeds of refunding debt or, for 2012 and later debt totals only, from other sources. Consequently, the reported debt data may vary from actual debt outstanding, and the variance for a specific issuer could be substantial.

Debt at a Glance is intended to inform citizens, not to present comprehensive data for investors. Data is provided as of the date indicated and may not reflect debt, debt service, population or other data as of any subsequent date. For fuller, more detailed or more current information, see the issuers’ web sites or their filings at Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®). The Comptroller does not control or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of any such site. When you access any such site, you will be leaving the Comptroller’s website.

Types of Debt

Authorized But Unissued Debt refers to Tax-supported Debt that has been approved by the voters but not yet issued.

Certificates of Obligation (COs) allow certain cities, counties and certain hospital or health districts to issue debt without voter approval (unless a referendum is petitioned) and are backed by tax revenue, fee revenues or a combination of the two.

Debt can refer to public securities issued or outstanding public securities, including general obligation pension bonds. It does not include long-term liabilities that are not public securities (e.g., unfunded pension and other post-employment benefit liabilities) or are not reported to the Bond Review Board. This term includes both Revenue-supported Debt and Tax-supported Debt.

Debt Issued is the total principal amount of debt sold. The amount of debt issued depends on the will of the voters (in the case of most tax-supported debt), action of the governing body, market conditions and budgetary needs.

Debt Outstanding is the principal owed over the remaining life of all debt issues.

Debt Service is the annual combined principal and interest amount needed to repay all debt on time and in full.

Interest and Sinking (I&S) Tax Rate is the tax rate levied by districts to pay for any bond debt that may have been issued to fund the construction of schools and facilities.

Lease Purchase is financing the purchase of an asset over time through lease payments that include principal and interest. Lease purchases can be financed through a private vendor.

Lease-Revenue Obligations are issued by a public facilities corporation created by a school district, used for acquiring, constructing, and equipping school facilities, and payable from lease rental obligations of the district. Commonly paid from available unrestricted revenue, including surplus maintenance and operations tax proceeds.

Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Tax Rate is the tax rate levied by districts to fund the operations and maintenance of schools, including maintenance tax notes, and contracts to finance movable equipment.

Maintenance and Operations Tax-Supported Debt is debt payable from revenue other than dedicated debt service taxes, including maintenance and operations taxes. May be used for any purpose other than payment of debt service, including maintenance and operating expenses.

Revenue-supported Debt is secured by non-property tax revenue such as sales tax, tuition, admissions to athletic events, tolls, or water, gas, or electric municipal utility charges. As used in this site, it does not include debt that is also payable from property taxes. Revenue-supported debt generally does not require voter approval.

Tax-supported Debt is backed by a pledge of property taxes levied within the issuer’s boundaries. Some tax-supported debt may be secured by a combination of property taxes and other revenue sources. It generally must be voter-approved (with exceptions for COs, tax notes, school district maintenance tax notes, certain county road bonds and contractual obligations for personal property.)

Voter Approved Tax-supported Debt is secured by a pledge of a sufficient property tax dedicated to pay debt service. May be used for school capital projects such as buildings, renovations, technology, athletic facilities, school buses and performing arts facilities or to refund maintenance and operations tax-supported debt.

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