Why is the City of Austin annexing Lost Creek?
We asked them that when we met with the City staff on February 8 and in a follow-up written request. Here's what they said:
"The decision to recommend annexation by the City staff takes into consideration multiple factors such as the financial impact to the City, the expansion of municipal service delivery, the enhancement of an economic base to support the cost of providing municipal services, the ability of the City to influence future development, and the ability of the city to provide full municipal services...
The State legislature authorized the use of municipal utility districts for the purpose of financing development infrastructure... For Lost Creek the purpose of the municipal utility district as a financing tool is essentially fulfilled. Further, Lost Creek's current financial situation allows the City to annex the district without a significant impact to the City's current taxpayers [emphasis added]. Annexation also allows for the natural and intended conclusion originally identified and agreed upon in the consent agreement."
What about the wholesale water purchase agreement that expires in 2007?
We've asked the City to extend that contract for 30 years or until annexation is completed, whichever comes first. They responded that they would certainly agree to extension until annexation. We're continuing to negotiate the details of the extension.
What other agreements do you have in place that impact annexation?
In the original consent agreement which formed the Lost Creek Municipal Utility District the City agreed to provide City of Austin wastewater service to Lost Creek before annexation. They have indicated they intend to honor that agreement and they have also said they there is sufficient time to construct the required connecting facilities before December, 2008. But when we requested specific design, cost, and scheduling information for that work they advised us the "preliminary engineering design and associated engineering studies have not been initiated".
What services will be affected by annexation?
After annexation the City will be responsible for all services currently provided by the District, including water and wastewater, parks and recreation, and trash collection. They'll also assume responsibility for Fire and Emergency Medical Services, currently provided by the Westlake Fire Department and for police protection and street maintenance currently provided by Travis County. The City has indicated that, in order to satisfy service quality requirements, they may contract some of these services, like Fire and EMS projection, back to the entities that currently provide them. This will all be detailed in the service plan they must publish within the next four months.
What happens to our taxes and fees after annexation?
The property taxes for the Lost Creek municipal Utility District and Travis County ESD #9 will go away and be replaced by the City property taxes. Bills for water, wastewater, and trash collection service will come from the City instead of the District and reflect their current charges for these services.
We've created a Tax and Fees Comparison Chart that shows the monetary impact for the average Lost Creek residence.
How do Lost Creek residents feel about annexation?
Why are Lost Creek residents opposed to annexation?
The Lost Creek Municipal Utility District is a neighborhood operation. Our Board is composed of Lost Creek residents, elected by Lost Creek residents, who are responsive to the specific needs of the community; our employees are based within the District and go out of their way to provide excellent service. This applies not only to water and wastewater service but to maintenance and expansion of our parks and recreational facilities, entrance lighting, landscaping, and holiday decoration, solid waste collection, and to working closely with the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association and Lost Creek Garden Club to coordinate and support neighborhood activities. After annexation we'll lose the local control and cooperation that makes Lost Creek such a great place to live.
We've also worked very hard to provide all that good service at a reasonable cost. The District is currently debt free, has substantial capital reserves (which will be transferred to the City upon annexation), and has lower taxes and service rates than the City or many other MUDs in the area. A comparison of current tax and service rates leaves no doubt our taxes and fees will increase substantially after annexation without a corresponding improvement in services.
How does the District intend to respond to the City's order?
We recognize that the City may eventually annex Lost Creek. But we also believe it is not in the best interests of Lost Creek residents and homeowners for that to happen in the foreseeable future. If annexation were to be completed on the proposed timetable our taxes and service fees would increase substantially with no improvement in services. As already stated, the District is providing better service than the City can, at lower cost.
The only tangible benefit of annexation to Lost Creek residents and homeowners would be the decommissioning of the wastewater treatment plant after the City provides connection to their wastewater system. And the District has a much better record than the City in operating wastewater collection and treatment systems. At the very least, we will work to insure the City lives up to its agreement to provide City wastewater facilities before annexation.
We are in the process of preparing and submitting a comprehensive service and facility inventory that describes all the services currently provided by the District and other agencies, that will be the responsibility of the City after annexation. We intend to use all the opportunities provided by Texas annexation statutes and past agreements with the City to be sure the services they provide after annexation, if that happens, measure up to what Lost Creek residents expect of the MUD now.
What can Lost Creek residents and property owners do now?
For now, not much. But it's important to understand that annexation is not imminent. It's at least a three year process. Even though we're not allowed an up or down vote on annexation, Texas law provides opportunities to influence the level of service provided after annexation.
The District will be submitting a service inventory by April 15, 2006 after which the City has 90 days to publish their plans to provide municipal services of equal or better quality. Then the City must hold two public hearings at which residents will have an opportunity to express their opinions to the City Council. That's when resident involvement will be most effective. After the hearings we'll begin negotiating for the provision of services after annexation, or for alternatives to annexation. At any point along the way the City may choose to amend the annexation plan to remove or defer Lost Creek.
We'll be keeping Lost Creek residents informed along the way through our newsletter, web site, and bill inserts as the process moves along. And, of course, they're always welcomed to attend Board meetings to hear the latest news and let the Board know how they feel.