The town of Cave Creek is too tiny to be called a city, but it's debt rivals that of some states.
"The town has about $62 million," said Cave Creek Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow.
"It just appalled me, you know," said town council candidate Steve Snider.
It's a figure that's hard to imagine. With just over 5,000 people in a town that amounts to about $12,000 in debt per person. That's a big number for a little town.
"It is, absolutely," Marlow said.
So CBS 5 News took a trip to town hall to get some answers and find out how the quaint community got so far in the red.
"The bulk of it was the purchase of the water company, the major water system improvements where we added a couple of storage tanks and upgraded our water plant and then the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant that was most recent," Marlow said.
Marlow said Maricopa County made the town build a new wastewater plant when the old one wasn't big enough. As for the water issue, we were there back in 2007 when the town kept running out of water because their system was in bad shape.
"We have a water loan that we took out to purchase the Cave Creek Water Company back in 2007," Marlow said.
The town has had plenty of water ever since, but they have been paying for it.
"The water rates we increased in 2009 and for some people they as much as tripled," Marlow said.
"We've had $400 a month water bills," Snider said.
Snider has a horse in this race, he's running for town council this spring on the debt issue.
"The more I started talking to people about it and people had no idea that we were that much in debt. I come from very humble means back in Wisconsin, I come from a farm community and, you know, I grew up with the adage if you can't pay for it you don't have it, you don't buy it, you don't spend it," he said.
No matter how you slice it, the damage is done. Now it will take 20 years to dig Cave Creek out of the debt hole.
To put this into perspective for you, a town similar in size is Youngtown. Officials there said the town doesn't have any debt. Fountain Hills has more than four times as many people and is about $11.5 million in debt.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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