SPEARFISH — It’s official. After weeks of petitioning to put the city’s decision to annex Spearfish Valley to a vote, opponents were able to submit more than 1,000 signatures and if it’s valid, it assures an election in December.
Jim Lee, who is an opponent of the annexation and a spokesman for Concerned Citizens of Spearfish Valley, said they only need just over 300 signatures, so he’s “confident this will let the people to decide,” not the city.
In August, the Spearfish City Council voted 5-1 to approve a resolution for an involuntary annexation of more than 160 acres of Upper and Lower Valley. The study area that included an estimated 1,635 Lawrence County residents consisted of 525 parcels that are abutting public roadways and 722 units that include residential, commercial, and industrial in Upper and Lower Valley.
After it was made official in September, Lee said a petition had been drafted and several people helped distribute them.
One of several people who supported an election was Christina Engelhaupt.
“In carrying the petition, there was strong support to conserve farmland and tourism that adds to the diversity of the economy,” she said. “There is also strong support to conserve the history of the Valley.”
While there were a few in favor of the annexation, Engelhaupt said they encountered residents who knew little about the annexation and how it would affect everyone in the Valley and everyone in city limits if approved.
“I think there are a lot of people who don’t understand how much this will cost the residents of Spearfish and for us who live here,” she said.
To inform everyone of the impacts the annexation will have on both residents within city limits and those in Lawrence County, Concerned Citizens of Spearfish Valley created a website, which can be viewed at www.spearfishannexation.com. On the site, they break down the city’s annexation study and the results, show how much the property taxes and user fees will increase, and display financials that show how the city can afford to provide city services, infrastructure upgrades and maintain and re-build the streets through revenue derived from additional property taxes.
Spearfish City Administrator Joe Neeb said the city would assume about $298,000 in revenue and $120,000 in new expenditures, so the benefit would be around $130,000. In addition, once the connection fees for water, sewer and solid waste are incorporated into the equation, Neeb estimates the city will incur an additional $322,000 in net revenue.
“There are so many residents who will not be able to afford the costs if we’re annexed, and the city’s claim we do not pay our fair share is simply false,” Engelhaupt said of the nearly 1,600 residents who live in the Valley. “We support the community in so many other ways. We volunteer our time, have memberships to the rec center, library and shop locally.”
Because the main concern among Valley residents is the increase in taxes and out-of-pocket expenses if annexation occurs. Neeb said earlier this year that in 2012 the city’s tax rate was $2.71 per 1,000 of assessed value. The approximate median house value in the annexation study area, he said, is $157,039. Therefore, the annual increase is estimated at $433.44.
“That would be the impact of an annexation to those individuals,” he said. “The city’s responsibility is to find out what each person will receive for that increase and that is what the study is intended to do.”
He added that compared to the rest of the municipalities in South Dakota, Spearfish is the third-lowest, next to Brookings and Watertown.
As for the general services that come along with the additional taxes, they include police and animal control, fire protection services, an option for future street upgrades, snow removal and an upgraded storm water system.
Assessment, in Neeb’s opinion is that when city services are fully over layed in that area, there is a good chance that the assessed value could rise because of the additional services.
“If we install a sidewalk, or curb and gutter, the assessor may increase the value of the property, but it’s tough to know that for sure.”
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