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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Don't "Houstonize" Arlington

The Census Bureau released the 2003 American Community Survey data:

Some interesting data about Arlington, Texas:
  • Total population 365,121
  • Median age (years) 29.6
  • Total housing units 139,061
  • Owner-occupied 75,396
  • Renter-occupied 48,395
  • Work in retail trade 19,480 (11.1% of city employment)
  • Commute to work via Public transportation (including taxicab) 1,363
  • Median household income (dollars) 48,775
  • Mean household income (dollars) 61,008

Here is the comparable data for Harris County (Houston, Texas) that build Reliant football stadium a few years back and is having problems paying back the stadium bonds:
  • Total population 3,553,882
  • Median age (years) 31.8
  • Total housing units 1,384,012
  • Owner-occupied 709,448
  • Renter-occupied 539,274
  • Work in retail trade 193,343 (11.6% of county employment)
  • Commute to work via Public transportation (including taxicab) 62,121
  • Median household income (dollars) 42,444
  • Mean household income (dollars) 60,513

Hmmm...can Arlington realistically pay back stadium bonds easier than Harris County, which is ostensibly Houston, Texas? We are one tenth their size and going into debt for about a third or a fourth of what Harris County went into debt to build THREE STADIUMS!! Arlington has a little higher income and does not have the albatross of a public transportation system, but Arlington has only 5,000 hotel rooms and only a scant number of rental car transactions. The reality is that the majority of the stadium debt in Arlington will come from sales tax revenue, mostly paid by Arlingtonians.

The Houston sports authority has annual payments on $900m in debt whereas Arlington is looking at something like $325-$500m (read the fine print in the master agreement (page 17, subsection 2.8(d)). Houston pays for their bonds with hotel and car rental taxes and the Harris County stadium authority does not receive sales tax revenue. Unfortunately for Houstonians:
Many of those who supported building the venues said the county's residents would not pay the bills - they would be borne by visitors who stayed in local hotels and rented cars.

"The taxpayers of Harris County really aren't affected," said Sue Millican, the authority's chief financial officer.

But Paul Bettencourt, Harris County tax assessor-collector, has estimated that about half of car-rental taxes are paid by county residents and businesses and about one-third of the taxes collected by the sports authority come from within the county.

I would suspect Arlington would be in the same boat - perhaps sinking a little slower because of the additional revenue from the increased sales tax.

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