LOST CREEK ANNEXATION CONCERNS
The City of Austin’s proposed annexation plan will cost Lost Creek residents dearly. If we are annexed, the average district resident will pay $1,806 more per year in taxes and fees (at 2006 rates). For the average household:
- Taxes will increase $808 per year
- The cost of water service will increase by $111 per year
- Wastewater service will go up by $638 per year (that’s a 204% increase)
- Trash collection will cost an additional $118 per year
- The City of Austin will add a new drainage fee of $85 per year
- And a transportation user fee of $44 per year
Overall, the average resident will pay 20% more than currently
Austin residents also will lose. Their taxes and fees will be used to underwrite the costs of meeting Austin’s obligations to build a 17,000-foot sewer line from the Williamson Creek Interceptor to Lost Creek. The costs of that line likely will never be covered by what the city charges us. Thus, Austenite will pay many millions more than they ever recoup from the higher fees and taxes that Lost Creek residents will have to pay.
The City claims otherwise but staff has refused to release a cost study to support their assertion. Our financial and engineering studies paint a much different picture.
The MUD has commissioned an engineering study that says the sewer line the city must build will cost anywhere from $14 million to nearly $25 million – much more than the city’s own preliminary stated estimate of $8.5 million.
Because Lost Creek is almost exclusively residential, the only new revenue of significance that the City will receive from us is the tax on our property and fees for services. They already collect sales taxes on goods and services we purchase, and their net new revenues from any other source actually will be negligible according to a study conducted for the MUD by the firm of Ray Associates, Inc.
It’s hard for any residential neighborhood to pay off for a city, but Austin will be committed by state law to a very high level of service to Lost Creek because we have developed such a high level of services on our own. Even without the cost of the new sewer line the city must build, we’ll probably never be a break-even proposition, and Austin taxpayers will have to bear the deficit.
The City’s annexation proposal carries serious significant environmental risks for Barton Creek, the Balcones Canyon land Preserve and known habitat of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler.
If Austin annexes Lost Creek, it is contractually obligated to immediately begin serving us from a new wastewater line that connects to the city system. Austin must decommission the existing MUD plant by the time annexation occurs.
The city staff has identified six possible alternative routes for such a line, which (depending on the alternative) would run a distance ranging from more than 14-thousand linear feet to 18-thousand linear feet in length.
For any of the proposed routes, the City will need to dig pits to bore through the hills and bluffs south of Barton Creek and construct at least two lift stations to lift the raw sewage a minimum of 300 feet to where it can join their existing Williamson Creek Interceptor.
All of the routes require crossing Barton Creek, leaving open the possibility of future spills of raw sewage into the creek. It will be necessary to drill directionally beneath the creek, to construct lift stations and force mains in very difficult areas near the creek, and to run a 3-phase power line into the area.
Three of the six routes under consideration cross the Balcones Canyon land Preserve; a fourth one would cross over confirmed Golden-Cheeked Warbler habitat; and the two others would require easements or agreements and the purchase of land from Stratus Properties and Gaines Ranch subdivision.
The draft annexation service plan that the City of Austin staff has run out in advance of the hearings is very generalized and much lacking in detail. It does not meet the requirements of state law. In fact, in contradiction of that law, the plan reflects no effort by city staff to provide required services at the same levels that the Lost Creek neighborhood currently receives from its Municipal Utility District.
The MUD currently has eight employees located within the district to maintain facilities; respond to water and wastewater line breaks; maintain our parks, greenbelts and beautification areas; and serve customers at a local administrative office located right in the heart of the neighborhood. The city’s draft plan does not come close to matching this level of service.
Lost Creek streets are paved with a surface that exceeds the city’s standard for residential streets. The draft service plan does not specify how Austin will maintain Lost Creek streets at the current level, as required by state statute.
The closest City of Austin Fire station is miles away and much farther than the Westlake Fire Station that currently serves Lost Creek. The draft service plan does not come close to matching our existing fire service.
In fact, the neighboring entities of Westlake Hills, Rollingwood and the Travis County Emergency Services District No. 9 will suffer financially if Austin annexes Lost Creek and does not contract with District 9 to provide fire service to Lost Creek residents. In that event, the taxpayers of Westlake Hills and Rolling wood will also suffer. They will need to pay even more to maintain District 9 to provide their own fire service.
Finally, some services will be lost for good or seriously deteriorated.
Austin will not continue enforcing deed restrictions in Lost Creek – important provisions that have helped maintain the quality of our neighborhood for many years.
Realistically, we must expect maintenance of our roads, two community parks, hiking trails and median plantings to deteriorate, because there won’t be locally responsive personnel of the Municipal Utility District to look after them.
In fact, we’re certain the responsiveness we currently enjoy whenever there is the slightest problem with water or sewer service will be lost under the city’s control.
Again, in contradiction of state law, the draft annexation service plan released by the City of Austin appears not to provide services comparable to what the Lost Creek neighborhood currently receives from its own Municipal Utility District. The service plan is simply inadequate.
In summary, annexation of Lost Creek does not make sense financially or in terms of service to residents of the area. Nor does it make sense for City of Austin taxpayers, who will simply have more of a tax and fee burden placed on them to underwrite service to Lost Creek – service that we don’t need from Austin anyway. Annexing Lost Creek is an idea that does not make sense for Lost Creek or the City of Austin.