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Thread: Finding the cost of serving parcels

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    Finding the cost of serving parcels

    I am working on a way to determine the tax value and liability of each parcel in the city. I am struggling with the best way to determine how much it costs to serve each parcel with city services. I can think of several ways to proceed but wanted to know if anyone else has done this kind of analysis.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Paul C View post
    I ...wanted to know if anyone else has done this kind of analysis.
    I'd start with the Cost Of Community Services literature.
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    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Don't know how things are in TN, but in CA water/sewer districts post that sort of information in some form or another. They'll usually even break it down by user type (res/commercial/industrial/etc.). You can probably also figure out the operating budgets for other services from the local jurisdiction, which again should be available on-line. Fire districts/departments, same thing (if separate agency).
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    How detailed do you want to get? Using the above example of water, is it enough to say that the average residential user consumes X gallons per day? Or do you want to get down to the level of saying that in addition to consumption, the cost of building water mains to that particular house is Y linear feet of main plus Z pecent of trunk mains, storage, wells, and treatment? Again, do you apply averages, or do you account for an attached unit in a dense neighborhood near the water plant having a lower per unit cost than a single family home on an acre lot at the edge of town?
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    How detailed do you want to get? Using the above example of water, is it enough to say that the average residential user consumes X gallons per day? Or do you want to get down to the level of saying that in addition to consumption, the cost of building water mains to that particular house is Y linear feet of main plus Z pecent of trunk mains, storage, wells, and treatment? Again, do you apply averages, or do you account for an attached unit in a dense neighborhood near the water plant having a lower per unit cost than a single family home on an acre lot at the edge of town?
    Some of the earlier COCS literature has this sort of calculation. You can ask your PW/Utility folks for some of these numbers, as the higher-ups have it in their heads.
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    How detailed do you want to get?
    I need it to be detailed enough that I can compare one development with another (highway commercial vs historic residential vs heavy industrial zone). I looked at some of the cost of service studies but they were of the broad "urban is cheaper than suburban" type. I will keep looking. Any links to a method allowing development to development (on a citywide scale that can be put into a GIS layer for analysis) comparisons would be helpful. If I have to I could do a historical search for budget information on every public service project but there has to be an easier way. My goal is to have a method to show which developments in our city are the most cost effective for the city. How much property tax, how much sales tax and how much it costs to serve (including long term maintenance). Thanks for the help so far.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Paul C View post
    I will keep looking. How much property tax, how much sales tax and how much it costs to serve (including long term maintenance). Thanks for the help so far.
    The good COCS literature should tell you the return on one dollar. There should be a negative for most res, a positive for comm'l, a large positive for industrial. Should be just a few minutes on Scholar and a few e-ms to PW.
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    The good COCS literature should tell you the return on one dollar. There should be a negative for most res, a positive for comm'l, a large positive for industrial. Should be just a few minutes on Scholar and a few e-ms to PW.
    This looks like a good start. I am looking at the American Farmland Trust (AFT) method. I have two concerns (based on what I have found so far):

    1) This method does not appear to have a spatial component to it. The way I understand it is that, it takes an average cost per land use type and applies it everywhere that land use is found in the city regardless of its context (I think the police and fire services do contain a spatial element). All commercial is like all other commercial and all industry is like all other industry. I could be wrong about this point but if it is true it will affect point 2.

    2) This method is a snapshot of one year and is not intended to project future costs of existing development. The one year cost and the cost over 25 yrs can be substantially different, so much so that the type of land use that is cheapest in any given year could be the most expensive over 25 years. An example would be the road out to the interstate exit. It could be almost free for any given year but sometime within the next 25 years it could be very expensive to repair.

    These are my first thoughts about the AFT method. You have definitely pointed me in the right direction on this. As with everything the trick is to get a method to work for each unique situation. I will continue to follow this path to see what I can find.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Paul C View post
    1) This method does not appear to have a spatial component to it.
    So it goes with most things - there are never enough data or studies for the granularity we want (especially in ecology). For example, I'm working on something about amenities for stormwater detention. I sure would like more hedonic analysis on, say, views to a nice pond. Or the increase in rents/land value nearby for different types of ponds. But I do what I can and I have policy recommendations that are good enough to act on. When I did something similar for a place in AK wondering where to annex, I used a cross-section of the COCS to get an average of costs per LU category. That was good enough to get the decision-makers to decide to act to have me go forward with more formal recommendations. You can't always get good spatial data on police or fire calls, but you can estimate more police calls to areas of lower SES.

    Quote Originally posted by Paul C View post
    2) This method is a snapshot of one year and is not intended to project future costs of existing development. The one year cost and the cost over 25 yrs can be substantially different, so much so that the type of land use that is cheapest in any given year could be the most expensive over 25 years. .
    You'll likely want to project cost using road width/age, sewer-water pipe age and capacity, stuff that PW will have to help you with. The issue will be especially difficult wrt land values-foreclosures-etc and we can't know what neighborhoods will decline and need more police. We can look at housing stock age and trend, but getting them enough to chew over and put the burden on open discussion with decision process on the record is the best we can do in our changing societal paradigm.
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