Consultant Mike Slaughter talks to aldermen about the findings of the second phase of an annexation study during Tuesday's board meeting. A map behind Slaughter shows the existing boundaries of the city in green, with the annexation study area in pink. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
August 22, 2018 10:29:57 AM
Starkville aldermen could decide next month to expand the city's borders after receiving results from the second phase of a months-long annexation study.
Consultant Mike Slaughter, with the Oxford-based planning firm Slaughter & Associates, presented the study's second phase findings to aldermen during a lengthy discussion at Tuesday's board meeting.
The city has been considering annexation since October, when the board authorized the study.
The study's first phase focused on population and potential ad valorem tax growth that would come in all portions of the proposed annexation area, which includes a stretch of land to the west along Highway 12 that would bring The Links apartment complex and Sunset subdivision into Starkville; and a small piece of land to the north to bring all of Collier Road into the city. The third, and largest, area originally included Mississippi State University and the surrounding areas to the east and south of the university. However, at Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Lynn Spruill said MSU declined to be part of the annexation during discussions between university and city leadership.
"They declined to be annexed, which is something that they can do," Spruill said. "That is not a possibility for us, however unfortunate I think that is for us because I think it would have been a nice way to round out our annexation process."
Spruill, who has advocated for annexation, said she hopes to bring the matter before the board for a decision at the second September meeting.
Departmental and financial impacts
The study's second phase focused on the impact the new areas would have on Starkville's various departments.
Slaughter said the police department would need to add 15 new patrol officers and 15 patrol cruisers and recommended adding eight of each in the first year and seven in the second year after annexation.
The Community Development Department would need to add another code enforcement officer, a building inspector, a new pickup, new technology such as a computer, iPads, and new phones, update the comprehensive plan to account for the new areas and to apply zoning to the new areas.
Sanitation and environmental services would need to add two drivers, two laborers, one front-end loader, one rear-end loader, a knuckle boom and would have to account for the increased costs of additional garbage bags provided to residents for garbage collection. The street department would need to add two equipment operators, two laborers, an asphalt patching machine, a bucket excavator and 244 street lights -- with 122 recommended for installation in year one and 122 in year two.
Costs and benefits
Slaughter's firm projected expenditures out five years from a possible annexation. The first year showed estimated costs of about $1.5 million, with expenses peaking in the second year at about $1.89 million before leveling off in the following three years at around $1.7 million.
However, the annexation would also generate additional revenue for the city that is estimated to more than keep pace with those costs. Slaughter said the area would generate about $1 million in additional ad valorem taxes at the city's current millage rate of 25.58 mills with an assumed 95 percent collection rate. With further revenue from franchise fees, licenses and permits and intergovernmental revenues such as sales taxes and a county road tax, the new areas would generate an estimated $1.69 million in new revenue in year one. Slaughter's firm projected growth out five years, based on an analysis of trends within the city, showing an estimated growth to $2.2 million by year five after annexation.
Slaughter also said the annexation costs would include laying new lines for fire protection and sewer. Those would cost an estimated $8.76 million, though he said the estimations were based on the inclusion of MSU in the annexation and may change without the university being involved.
Several aldermen said they weren't sure of where they stood on moving ahead with the annexation on Tuesday.
Ward 3 Alderman David Little said he needs time to think over his decision. However, he said he could see some contending the city doesn't need to take on the additional land.
"We've also had a tough time keeping up what we've got," Little said. "That's going to be the argument thrown at us. We've got a fire station we haven't manned that we built 10 years ago. And we're considering taking on a significant chunk. I just want to be sure that if we're going to take it on that we're going to do it right."
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he thought the initial financial estimations painted a "reasonable" picture of costs for annexation, but that he would need more time to consider it.
He said that, if the city annexes what's under consideration, it makes sense to look east, where MSU is driving growth.
"I think what's clear is that over the last eight years, if you look at the numbers for the growth out there and you compare that to the 1998 annexation, I don't think we're going to have a 1998 situation here if we annex to the east, where in 1998 we annexed to the north and to the west," he said. "Which, in retrospect, helps you get to where the bypass is going to be but there's no development and there's been no pressure for development."
Spruill said it would also bring in businesses, such as the Starkville Ford dealership and other nearby commercial properties that enjoy the benefits of being near the city without helping to pay the costs. She further added that bringing those areas into the city could help control the area where the most growth is occurring.
"If we don't do it now, I don't know what the options are in terms of how that will continue to grow and how that will impact us without us being able to control it," Spruill said. "Had we had that property, to begin with, for the Helix, Aspen Heights, 21, The Pointe, before those came into existence, we might have had an opportunity to make sure those were sprinkled and safe. We might have had an opportunity to help them blend better into our community in terms of traffic and flow."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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