Williamson and Hays County – the north and south ends of the Austin metro region – have more tax supported debt per capita than any other Texas counties with more than 50,000 residents.
Each resident of Williamson County is responsible for $2,498 in public debt, while each resident of Hays County bears $2,090 in public debt, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Debt-At-A-Glance website.
This compares to just $750 in public debt for each resident of the urban core of the Austin region – Travis County, $700 in Harris County – Houston’s urban core, and only $26 per person in Dallas County and $223 per person in Tarrant – the two urban cores of the Dallas Fort Worth region.
In terms of total debt, Williamson County is only third in Texas – with a total tax supported debt of $1,320,901,658 – behind Bexar – $2,718,935,950 – and Harris – $3,212,667,903. Yet Bexar and Harris are the 4th and 1st largest counties in the state with 5 and 15 times as many jobs as Williamson, respectively.
According to our analysis of county appraisal district data, Williamson County was worth about $57 billion in 2016 – the total property value of all properties in the county – and Hays is worth about $15 billion.
Total tax supported debt as a percent of fair market value is an interesting way to compare a county’s fiscal status. County public debt accounts for almost 3% of the total value of Hays and over 2% of the value of Williamson, but only about 0.5% of the value of Travis.
We’re working on a more in depth report looking at this debt. Key concepts that we must explore and understand is how forecasts of county growth and road spending play into these seemingly troubling stats.