San Antonio Using Annexation To Hide Problems - Texas Scorecard

Boasting the 10th highest per-capita tax burden in the nation, San Antonio also has nearly $1.5 billion in hidden retirement obligation. Unsurprisingly, instead of addressing the obvious spending problems within their administration, officials are attempting to pass the burden of their failed legacy onto neighboring residents via annexation—whether they like it or not.

During the 84th Session earlier this year, the City of San Antonio, along with the Texas Municipal League, lobbied the legislature—using taxpayer funds, no less—to successfully kill SB 615 legislation that would merely allow the residents of an ETJ to vote on whether or not to be annexed.

San Antonio responded to this well-intentioned legislation by not only lobbying against it, but aggressively ramping up their own aspirations should accountability be brought to the process next session.

Currently, San Antonio’s annexation program is broken down into gradual phases — the first of which has been postponed (for electorally advantageous reasons) until an unspecified date in the spring. The cumulative 10-year plan includes five priority areas totaling 66.7 square miles, and would rope more than 120,000 residents into the city’s chronically abused tax base.

While the city claims that annexation provides benefits such as the provision of services, the city’s own statements predict that they will spend less on services for those areas than they will gain in tax revenue from them—which represents, at best—a raw deal for residents. But according to the City’s police union, however, it’s much worse than that.

“I think it’s (annexation) a horrible idea,” said police union president Mike Helle. “We’re barely covering what we’ve got right now.” Since the city cannot provide services (according to the ones providing them), taxing them for that purpose amounts to nothing more than a de-facto financial taking.

But it doesn’t stop there. It gets worse for residents.

As per the city’s annexation program, city regulations are to be imposed on proposed areas immediately—meaning residents will instantly lose a great deal of sovereignty over their own real property. Takings are an inherent part of the regulatory extension that involuntary annexation brings—building regulations, ordinances, zoning codes, permit processes, etc. will all at best increase costs for industrious property owners — and in some cases, prohibit their actions entirely.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation published an in-depth explanation and examples of how the regulatory capture inherent in involuntary annexation creates a very real burden for industrious property owners.

State Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) tried to remedy the relatively unchecked power-grabbing capabilities enjoyed by municipalities through SB 615—to no avail. Considering that more than half of registered lobbyists work for local and county governments (and are often paid through these same revenue streams), it comes as little surprise that such a common-sense accountability measure would be received as taboo under the pink dome.

Just this week, the Chicago-based think-tank Truth In Accounting revealed that San Antonio has the 10th highest per-capita tax burden in the nation at $2,200.

While city officials are hoping that this massive power grab will magically cure their fiscal woes, the evidence is simply not there. Abject fiscal mismanagement and borderline lawlessness has created the financial mire the home of the Alamo now finds itself in.

And in their desperation, city officials are attempting to pull their neighbors down into it as well.