The Bodies Bankrupting Brook County
While some of the major cities in Texas, such as Houston, Dallas and San Antonio for example, are starting to see an economic turnaround, other areas of the state are still suffering, but perhaps not for the reasons we might initially expect. Brooks county is in the middle of a serious financial crisis, and could be the first county in the state to be forced into bankruptcy. This has serious implications not only for the county as a whole, but also the residents, county employees and the State in general.
Brooks County’s Financial Difficulties
Contrary to the problems faced by cities such as Detroit and the State of California, where financial difficulties were caused by industry troubles or unionized employees, Brooks has some unique, and morbid problems. One of the major causes of debt in the State is being caused by having to dispose of the bodies of illegal immigrants making their way over the Mexican border. Falfurrias, which houses a major checkpoint on the 281 route is one of the central areas of the battle with illegal immigration. When attempting to cross the border illegally, many immigrants are simply being left in the wasteland by smugglers and told that Houston is close by and in reachable walking distance. Many of these immigrants are left without water or food, and with no idea where to go often end up perishing as a result. In the summer months, temperatures can reach as high as 115 degrees, which can quickly kill unprepared and lost immigrants. This fiscal year alone, there have been 74 deaths, costing the state over $100,000. This of course, makes the problem not only financial, but also ethical. The problem for the county is that they simply cannot afford to bury this amount of bodies – and with smugglers unlikely to stop using this route anytime soon, or exploiting immigrants seeking entry into the state, solutions are hard to find.
Knock on Effects
Of course, the problem does not simply end there. In addition to the immigration difficulties, Brooks County has also been hit extremely hard by the oil and gas industry developments – losing an estimated $200 million in value. This is in turn hitting county employees hard, with cuts being made and jobs being lost in attempts to stifle the bleeding funds. Coping with individual or business bankruptcy is one thing, but when the whole county is placed in a situation where they may need to file themselves, the impact on the community is likely to be catastrophic. Health benefits are already being cut, causing employees to become seriously concerned for the future of their jobs. The danger here is that the effects of a county bankruptcy could force numerous individuals into having to file themselves. Facing pressures such as these, and potential personal bankruptcy can have a very real human cost too, and could lead to suffering from depression, health problems, and even addiction. This is turn could lead to a rise in Texas inpatient addiction treatment, although another concern will be the inability of many to be able to afford such treatment if things continue down their current path.
In addition to cutting health benefits, many county employees are being faced with reduced insurance plans, again causing serious concern and anger among the counties work force. However, the county itself has little choice in this approach. Tax is currently at its cap, and with the lack of revenue generated from the oils and gas industry, which is focusing its attentions at Eagle Ford, more cuts are expected in the foreseeable future. This leaves county employees in a precarious position. It is perhaps more important now than ever before for Brooks County residents to make sure they have a clear understanding of what personal bankruptcy involves, and whether filing will become a very real course of action in the near future. While the county does seem to be attempting to find alternatives, the addition of old debt on top of the immigration and oil and gas issues leaves their options very limited, and residents of the county will be watching closely as events unfold. Whether the county will follow in the footsteps of Alabama County remains to be seen, but all evidence is unfortunately pointing towards a county bankruptcy in the near future.
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