Many residents live among West Austin's scenic hills to escape the city limits, but in the last decade, those boundaries have extended into their quiet communities by no choice of their own—until now.

On May 4, residents of the Lost Creek neighborhood will be able to vote to stay within Austin's city limits or leave to become an independent township once again.

If the neighborhood votes to disannex, some city fees and public services, such as police, fire and trash pickup, would change.

Two-minute impact

Prior to state legislation passed in 2017, large cities in Texas could forcibly annex nearby townships to bolster their tax base.

Lost Creek, a West Austin neighborhood with a population of about 1,200 residents and a median home value of $1.5 million, was added to Austin city limits in 2015, after the bill was first introduced.

Since joining the city of Austin, Lost Creek residents have voiced concerns about decreased service levels to their neighborhood and higher taxes.

Local lobbyists began working with Texas lawmakers who eventually passed House Bill 3053 last year, requiring large cities to hold disannexation elections for areas that were recently added.

On Feb. 1, Austin City Council called elections for 783 acres of Lost Creek and five other areas, including parts of River Place.

Scott Agthe, River Place resident and former leader of the River Place Disannexation political action committee, said this upcoming election is not on the radar for his neighbors, as the areas being voted on are mostly nonresidential outparcels.

Why it matters

If disannexation is successful, city staff said the remaining Austin taxpayers could see a marginal increase to their tax burden.

"[Disannexations] will marginally increase the property tax burden on all other property taxpayers due to the same total revenue being raised from a slightly smaller tax base," city staff said.

Additionally, this bill is the first of its kind in Texas history, as no area has ever successfully disannexed from a city due to the lengthy and expensive legal process required, said James Quintero, a Policy Director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

What residents are saying

Longtime Lost Creek resident Leslie Odom said she joined the fight for disannexation after her car had been broken into twice in the same week.

Odom said she was disappointed with the lack of response from the Austin Police Department.

"It felt like someone punched me in the gut. ... I looked at my child and thought in that moment, 'I need change,'" said Odom, who helps lead the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association.

Prior to annexation, the Travis County Sheriff department had a substation in the former Lost Creek MUD building next to Lost Creek Park.

Now, without their presence, Odom said she and other residents have noticed an uptick in crime.

In 2021, the Lost Creek Limited District to began hiring their own off-duty sheriff patrols, which costs about three times more per year than what they paid in fees before, said Ryan Brannan, a state lobbyist who leads the Save Lost Creek PAC.

What happens next?

Brannan, who said he has collected over 1,000 petition signatures in favor of withdrawal, believes the disannexation vote is likely to pass.

In this case, residents of Lost Creek could see the following changes, according to county and city sources:
  • Travis County law enforcement would replace the Austin Police Department services
  • The Westlake Fire Department would replace Austin Fire Department services
  • Austin Resource Recovery would no longer handle trash pickup, and services would likely return to a private company
  • Austin Code Enforcement, zoning authority and short-term rental limitations would go away
  • Austin Transportation and Public Works would no longer be responsible for maintaining roads
  • Austin-Travis County EMS services would continue
While water and electric services would continue to be provided by the city, they are likely to cost less once disannexed, Quintero said.

Residents would also have to pay Austin taxes until local shares of city debt are paid off, which is estimated to take about two years.

Quote of note

"As long as transparency and facts are guiding these conversations, I trust Lost Creek residents will choose what they feel is best for their families, and I will respect the outcome of the election," said District 8 City Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents Lost Creek, in a statement.

Get involved

Only residents of the relevant areas can vote in the May 4 disannexation elections.

More voting and election information is available from the county online.