The Herald Bulletin

March 9, 2013

Debate rages over Anderson’s proposed annexations

Mayor Smith promotes benefits; opponents dispute claims

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Anderson Fast Forward has been public for nearly a month.

Its supporters can be counted in handfuls; its ardent foes in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Robust debate is playing out on social media through competing Facebook pages.

Opponents created “Say NO to Anderson’s Annexation Plans 2013,” which had 446 “likes” at last count; the city is hosting “Say YES to Anderson Expansion.” It had 63 “likes” at last count.

The Anderson City Council tabled introduction of Fast Forward resolutions and fiscal plans for the proposed northeast and southwest annexations last month while members gather information and gauge public sentiment.

Their next opportunity to introduce those documents and formally begin the annexation process will occur on Thursday.

“Anderson Fast Forward is the largest public policy proposal the city of Anderson has been engaged in since 1957,” Mayor Kevin Smith told The Herald Bulletin’s editorial board recently. He calls it a defining moment in charting the city’s future.

Its goal, he said, is to stabilize Anderson’s population and property tax base, and create an economic development corridor by capturing frontage along Interstate 69 to the Madison/Hamilton County line.

According to the city’s fiscal plan, the proposed northeast annexation would absorb about 4 square miles in Union and Richland townships, add 2,900 to Anderson’s population, 1,163 homes, five businesses and 25 miles of road.

The city estimates the cost of providing police and fire protection, full road maintenance and other current city services would be about $762,000 in 2015, against tax revenue and fees collected of nearly $2.9 million for a net gain of about $2.1 million. Over four years (2015-2018), the annexation would generate about $11.5 million in revenue, $3.2 million in costs, and create a positive fiscal impact for the city of $8.4 million.

The southwest annexation presents a different picture. While far larger at nearly 17 square miles, it would bring 1,052 people into Anderson and be a net revenue drain until hoped-for commercial, industrial or residential development occurs.

The cost of providing city services to the southwest annexation area in 2015 would be about $1.5 million, against tax revenue and fees collected of nearly $1.3 million, for a net deficit of $205,537. Over four years (2015-2018), the costs would be about $7.1 million, against revenue generated of about $5 million, for a net deficit during the period of $2.1 million.

Anderson officials say residents in both annexation areas, particularly those whose homes are valued at $75,000 to $100,000 will see annual increases in their property taxes. However, lower homeowner insurances premium costs because of a better fire rating and savings in trash collection fees, as well as the overall benefits of being a city resident, will offset higher taxes, according to the Smith administration.

Many county residents who testified at the Anderson City Council meeting in February and at other regional forums are skeptical of these and other claims. Many say if they wanted to live in the city they would have moved there. Critics also say that, if the city’s goal is economic development, there is plenty of abandoned factory land available in Anderson on which to build.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.