DeKalb’s Limit on Per Capita Debt

dollar signAs implied yesterday, I’ve got my hands on the City of DeKalb’s Debt Management Policy. The City Clerk is looking into getting this document posted at the city’s website, but meantime you can get a copy of it from him or from me. It’s a 12-page PDF.

In continuing our look at DeKalb’s limitations on debt, here is the second.

2. Gross Bonded Debt Per Capita
The formula for this computation is Gross Bonded Debt divided by the current population as determined by the most recent U.S. Census. The City shall not exceed $1,200 for Gross Bonded Debt per capita.

We know from our examinations of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) that in FY2010, City of DeKalb per capita debt was reported as $564.31, and that the figure was probably low because DeKalb’s population estimates have been running too high in the past few.

It is rather startling to find out that the city thinks doubling the per capita debt burden is fine. Is DeKalb using our more prosperous neighbors as benchmarks?

Speaking of doubling per capita debt, may I point out once again that per capita overlapping debt (which is the debt of other units of government paid by DeKalb taxpayers) doubled from FY2007 to FY2010. My readings suggest debt management best practices also call for a prescribed limit on total per capita debt for the sake of the financial health of the citizens.

Sure, DeKalb has limited power over other governmental bodies but remember, we’re merely “striving” and taking these “factors” into account when issuing debt, not following actual rules. Some consideration of the total debt burden would not be an unreasonable demand.