THE HARRIS COUNTY TREASURE SAYS WE ARE DIGGING A DEEP FINANCIAL HOLE!
It’s likely one of the longest Facebook posts I’ve seen in sometime. It was a post written by Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez. On his page he takes issue how the Harris County Toll Road Authority has served as a cash cow for what he calls the struggling Harris County Houston Sports Authority. He says county leaders have put the county on a path to financial self destruction by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Here’s what the elected official posted on June 27th:
In opting to become the nation’s largest city to seek federal bankruptcy protection, Stockton, California took a rare financial step of last resort after struggling with the economic downturn, soaring pension costs and contractual obligations; one of which was the construction costs of their hockey arena. Now, Harris County is no Stockton, CA, however, many people often ask, “How could this happen?” Again, Harris County is no Stockton, but this will give you some idea of how governments get into binds. Some may recall I was a city councilman before I was elected County Treasurer, and vociferously opposed the passage of a ballot initiative which created the Harris County Houston Sports Authority and its ability to issue public debt for the construction of three arenas. In 2001 the Authority was out of cash and borrowed 19 million dollars from Bob McNair to build more stuff…..By September 2006 that figure had turned into 26.373 million dollars. The Sports Authority turned to Harris County for a loan, but the county did not have that kind of money in the General Fund so the county turned to the Harris County Toll Road Authority and Harris County borrowed 26.373 million from the Toll Road Authority. Harris County in turn loaned that money to the Sports Authority…remember they told us property tax payers were not going to be on the hook for the arena debt, but we are now into it for 26 million….for five years that 26 million dollar loan was on the books and no reduction in principal was made. In May of 2010 Moody’s declared the Sports Authority’s bonds as “junk bonds.” In 2011 there was yet another agreement between Harris County and the Sports Authority to address repayment ……the loan was now to run until August of 2020 and the Sports Authority would end up paying $45,853,192.82…..and that is how 19 million got turned into a 45.8 million dollar public debt. Now as if we weren’t in deep enough trouble, today the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation…..which owes Harris County property tax payers 12 million dollars came before commissioners court with an idea to put an arena inside an arena we built in 1965 and for which we’ve never paid off the debt for a mere $655, 000, 000, 00 Don’t believe me? Read the article here: