The City of Richland is out of debt — 23 years early, and there's going to be a city-wide party to celebrate.
In 1996, the city voted to issue water bonds to upgrade the city's water system, at a cost of nearly $400,000. For a city with only about 250 water meters, it was a huge investment, and they allowed themselves 40 years to pay it off.
Seven years later, in 2003, the city borrowed $133,980 to build a new city hall.
However, in 2008, the city began to look at the amount of money going into interest and decided to get out of debt.
After paying steadily for more than 10 years on the water debt, and four years on the city hall debt, the city still owed $106,983 on city hall, and $337,000 on the water bonds.
Within two years, they'd paid off the city hall. It took them three more years to pay off the water debt.
The city made its last payment in December 2013, officially becoming debt-free. They will save about $200,000 in interest by paying it off early.
“This is the biggest thing that Richland has probably ever had except for after they first got the water system back in the late 1950s,” said Mayor Delores Baldwin, Richland mayor since 1997.
“There were things, and there are still things the city needs, but we were very, very cautious about what money we had coming in,” Baldwin said.
Richland gets about $200,000 a year in fees and taxes, although it makes a small profit from the water system as well.
Being out of debt puts Richland into some pretty special company among Texas cities. Highland Park is debt-free, but it's more common for smaller towns to not have anything hanging over them.
The Texas Municipal League keeps a list of 640 Texas cities, ranging from the largest to smallest, and their tax and debt structures. About 50 have no debt, and most of those are smaller, like Richland.