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New City Council to Face City Debt of $1 Billion
By Joshua Cole Little
LUBBOCK, TX--- A new City Council will be elected by Lubbock on Saturday, and one of the biggest tasks will be to decide how to handle more than $1 Billion of debt. Per capita that equals to more than $4,500 - a number that has some Lubbock residents concerned. Mayor Glen Robertson says he is hopeful the new City Council will be ready to bring it down.
Mayor Robertson says the debt grew over the last ten years. However, in the two most recent terms City Council has been able to level off the debt rather than continue to grow it. Robertson says he sees a possible upcoming bond election in the near future that will ultimately let the citizens of Lubbock decide if they are willing to accept more debt.
"While I'm not going to say its good debt, it's necessary debt," says Robertson.
More than a third of Lubbock's debt comes from water projects. Other major factors include the city's electric budget with LP&L and road maintenance.
But the only way to fix the problem is to raise property taxes, increase the debt or cut services.
"This council is going to be facing a very difficult decision this year in budget session," says Robertson. "How do we continue to pay for the necessary infastructure improvments without either taking on more debt or raising tax rates."
Mayor Robertson says the next step for the new City Council will be to find those ways to shrink the debt.
"I think whichever council is seated after this coming Saturday [it] will be ready to take whatever steps are necessary to continue operation of the city," says Robertson.
Mayor Robertson says that it would be for three to five years before the city sees improvments in reversing the debt. Water and energy fees and additional taxes create revenue which helps, but for that to show signs of reversing the debt the city will have to slow the growth of spending.
"It's too much debt for a city of our size to have," says Kay Hobgood. "I think that cutting services is not something that anyone would want to see done."