Comprehensive plan update shows Lakeway officials must plan against overall slowdown in revenue over next 20 years

Larry Harlan, chair of Lakeway's Comprehensive Planning Committee, addressed City Council on Nov. 12. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Larry Harlan, chair of Lakeway's Comprehensive Planning Committee, addressed City Council on Nov. 12. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

Larry Harlan, chair of Lakeway's Comprehensive Planning Committee, addressed City Council on Nov. 12. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

As Lakeway's remaining undeveloped land is built out over the next 20 years, new projections show a natural corresponding slowdown in revenue.

Because of this, city leaders will have to expand discussions about how to best proceed with revenue strategies moving into the next two decades and beyond. This was a key facet of a Nov. 12 presentation to City Council from the Lakeway Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.

As city officials describe it, the comprehensive plan, anticipated to be complete some time at the beginning of 2020, will be a living document intended to guide the city on the bulk of its future decisions pertaining to issues such as zoning, future land use and transportation.

Interim City Manager Julie Oakley, who is on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, discussed challenges the city is facing, including less new property added to the tax roll creating a subsequent slow in property tax revenue; flattened sales tax with fewer new businesses; and less revenue from permit fees.

"On top of all these revenue issues that we're going to be dealing with, we're also going to be having aging infrastructure," Oakley said.


As one example, Oakley laid out a projected 20-year roads sales tax funding gap that showed revenues in the next two decades will be about $18.5 million, while expenditures will top out at almost $31.7 million.

"We see that just in infrastructure, we have a gap of about $13.2 million in our [road] sales tax," Oakley said, adding that almost all of the city's road budget comes from its road sales tax fund.

Oakley agreed with Mayor Sandy Cox that because of the depreciation in revenue from decreasing property, sales tax and permit fees, increasing the city's ad valorem sales tax rate will not be a sufficient response to the possible deficits the city may face.

"We don't know exactly when, but we do know that during the next 20 years, which is what this comprehensive plan covers, that we will be facing these challenges," Oakley said. "We're hoping that by having these discussions ahead of time—that we'll be able to plan for any challenges like that."

Oakley said there are many avenues officials can pursue within the confines of an economic development plan that can help generate more revenue for the city, including the employment of flexible zoning options within residential and multiuse categories, changes in sales tax and ad valorem tax rates and energized tourism campaigns.

Larry Harlan, chair of Lakeway's Comprehensive Planning Committee, also provided council with a presentation that included the committee's vision statement and goals.

Harlan said the committee's goals include sustaining Lakeway's identity as a community, maintaining its environment, keeping its infrastructure in excellent shape, cultivating a broad set of community and recreational programs, encouraging careful expansion of business and economic development and remaining committed to long-range planning.

"Lakeway is now the third-largest city in Travis County," Harlan said.

City leaders are planning to have another discussion regarding the comprehensive plan as soon as mid-December, but no meeting has yet been scheduled.

"I have been waiting 18 months to have this conversation," Cox said. "This is the whole reason for us to plan. This is exactly why we did what we did ... We know we're going to need more money over time ... It's good for us to recognize that we have something to solve."
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.