City's Annexation Policies

Hi All. I’m sure many of you read this weekend’s Statesman feature on Hudson Bend’s efforts to resist annexation by CoA. The City’s annexation policies are a topic I’ve been pondering for a while and would appreciate your perspective on. More specifically, I’m curious to know if a framework (departmental guidelines, committee reports, independent studies, etc.) for evaluating a given annexation proposal is publicly available, and, more importantly, whether that framework is sophisticated enough to reliably project the long-term implications of that plan, i.e. discounted future revenue compared to O&M and capital renewal obligations. Maybe it exists and I’m just out of the loop on this particular subject matter.

In my experience, municipalities often view annexation - especially those areas already supplied with adequate infrastructure and services - as a windfall, or at the very least an opportunity to realize substantial cost savings. However, although the added tax base functions in a similar way to a cash flow-generating liquid asset, the same cannot be said for certain types of infrastructure like roads. Things like transportation infrastructure are assets in the sense that they possess use-value to the consumer (driver/occupant), yet because they are difficult - if not impossible - to monetize (except in the case of tollways or concessions to private operators), they behave more like liabilities - depreciable ones that demand constant reinvestment to boot. In an ideal world, a comprehensive analysis of the balance between risk and return should form the basis of the decision-making process with respect to annexation. My concerns are twofold: that the accretion of peripheral areas into the City is being guided a priori based on incomplete data and/or faulty assumptions leading to fiscally untenable outcomes, and that the sketchy methodologies underlying what should be a deliberate, data-driven assessment lead to greater skepticism of our civic leaders’ ability to effectively govern.

To be fair: as a CoA employee myself who works on not unrelated issues, I am not suggesting that city staffers are incompetent hacks or questioning their performance. Rather, I think that such an important issue deserves increased scrutiny to help ensure that our policies and practices are aligned with our vision for the future.

I’m asking because the #atxurbanists Facebook group is also discussing the issue: https://www.facebook.com/groups/atxurbanists/983952234990886/?notif_t=group_comment_reply

Original Statesman article: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/local/in-hudson-bend-fear-of-joining-austin-drives-effor/nnykJ/