Texas schools pass debt on to the next generation

The Leander Independent School District is awash in debt and feeling pretty good about itself.

The district’s $3.7 billion in projected debt is higher than all but Houston and Dallas, school districts with several times the number of students. Leander’s debt per student, projected at more than $114,000, is by far the highest in Texas for comparably sized districts.

In September, the Leander ISD school board approved $206 million more bond debt, a single issue that will cost district taxpayers $1.1 billion or five times more than the original cost if taken to full maturity.

The district’s current annual debt service of more than $61 million, which is about 20 percent of the annual budget, is expected to top $90 million a year within the next decade and $138 million in 35 years.

Leander, a school district of about 35,000 students northwest of Austin, and a handful of other fast growing districts in the state have amassed billions of dollars of debt through the use of capital appreciation bonds.

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