Hidalgo County contends with funding loss as it plans new courthouse

Hidalgo County continues to massage the numbers for its new courthouse after Edinburg reneged on its promise to help fund the costly nine-figure project, hoping to save taxpayers a rate increase in the process.

In short, the county is attempting to determine how to make up for the $45 million the city was supposed to contribute to the project over a 30-year period. Edinburg’s annual $1.5 million contribution would have helped the county pay its biannual debt service payments, which currently stand at about $23 million per year.

  1. Should the city of Edinburg help fund the new Hidalgo County Courthouse?

County leaders remain confident the county can afford the project — with or without Edinburg’s help — but say it’s going to take some adjusting, including debt restructuring, to do it.

Noe Hinojosa, the county’s financial adviser, gave a roughly 45-minute presentation to commissioners court earlier this month that outlined a possible plan of action that would require the county to borrow $188 million over the course of five years.

However, not all of the funds would be used to finance the courthouse — $48 million would be allocated for roads and $4 million would fund other capital improvement projects.

Hinojosa said the county won’t start paying “real juicy principal payments” until 2030 — 12 years from now. “Why?” he asked rhetorically. “Because we’re trying to walk around what today happens to be a 23-million-and-change payment and take advantage of our payment structures on the back side.”

So as the county pays off what it already owes, the money that it saves will go toward payment of the proposed new bond issuances. That money, coupled with an estimated $1.25 in annual court filing fees, should help the county meet its annual debt payments, even if there is no discernible growth in the tax rolls.

The county, however, expects the tax rolls to grow by 4.1 percent next year, bringing the county’s taxable assessed value from $31.4 billion this year to $32.7 billion in 2019.

“Historically, over the past five years, the (taxable assessed value) has been growing at a 4.4 percent, and over the last 10 years at a 3.45 percent,” Hinojosa said. “So we’re using a 4.1 (percent) as sort of a guesstimate.”

Under the proposed plan, the county’s annual debt service payments would range between $23 million and $26.7 million for the next 12 years before dropping significantly to $18 million and below in 2033.

nlopez@themonitor.com

  1. Hidalgo County Courthouse project through the years