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Thoughts on evaluation criteria

1 year 5 months ago #1028 by Rajeev.Jain
As a committee we have not yet discussed the core principles which will guide our evaluations and recommendations. Some potential principles for your considerations below.

Disclaimer - these are not necessarily meant to be the CBAC formal evaluation criteria, just deliberations on what they could and should be and what would guide the selection of the criteria.

1. Ensure that public funds are being used to maximize PUBLIC benefit
- The fewer the # of people that a project is for, the closer it gets to being a private project as opposed to a public project.
- So a goal can be to maximize the number of people that see a positive impact from the project per $ spent.
- An important (and counter-intuitive) corollary to the above is that we do not need to maximize the overall $ benefit from the bond issuance, rather we need to focus the number of people to be benefited.
- So for example, a very high ROI project but that is meant for a small exclusive subdivision should not be funded with public money. Such projects that have huge benefits per $ spent, but that accrue to a small population i.e. are less public in character, can be supported if they come with an appropriate level of non-public funds (as typically incentivized by a private benefit) 
- As per discussion today, this evaluation approach also favors larger public projects. Such a preference is also consistent with what county staff suggested in their presentation leads to higher staff utilization efficiency.
- Focusing on # of people served also allows us to compare different kinds of projects e.g. land acquisition vs parks vs road improvements without having to make a lot of assumptions about the total $ benefit across project categories.
- It is unlikely we will be able to quantify the entire benefit in $ and especially it will not be possible for all projects, so just the # of people served is a more practical metric
- as the next layer of sophistication, we can consider # of people served per year, or over life of project, or use a threshold for how significant the benefit is when calculating the # of people served.

2. Equitable distribution
- Allocate project $ in proportion across the county proportional to the number of people that live in the area of influence of the project.
- Staff can perhaps help us identify the relevant population, e.g. for a park this would be the number of people that live within walking distance today and as projected over the useful life of the project. For a drainage project, it would be the estimated number of people that couldn't make it through a flooded crossing once in two years but that now can. 
- Note the equitability criteria based on # of people would work very well in tandem with criteria # 1 above. Since it is easier to count people today and tomorrow than it is to predict all technical outcomes of a project and to convert them into $ benefits.
- Should the projects be allocated in proportion to land area? I think not, it is not sq ft of land that we intend to benefit. 
- Same for trying to balance funding across other geographical metrics e.g. east vs west, or precinct by precinct. We are not funding the east or west region of austin, we are funding the people that live in each of these places today and that will move in over the planning horizon.

3. Are we taking on debt to finance new future spending, or to enable the county to honor prior financial commitments?
- can these two needs even be separated? Planning and budgeting efforts at the county have to be integrating both needs so perhaps we should not even try to disentangle the two.
- however, if deemed separable, we should deprioritize projects that reflect prior commitments e.g. fixing prior mistakes made by a developer. Funding for such projects should come from sources other than a new bond issuance to be placed on the ballot. However, cost overrun due to unexpected inflation is a reasonable new expense if not captured already via increased tax revenue.

4. Due diligence on projects
- Projects that are not thought through enough as presented should be summarily rejected from consideration until more detail can be provided
- if a project hasn't been thought through, it likely needs more effort before being considered for funding
- well-intentioned aspiration does not equate to a fundable project

5. should we prefer a project that shows up in several other plans
- This criterion reminds me of a "recommendation bubble" in social media where things that get more attention soon start to get even more attention only because they got more attention. 
- Presence of a project in many other plans also suggests that 1) a project has potentially other sources of funding, 2) the idea has been around for a while and hasn't got funded yet. Such projects should show a lot of multi-stakeholder funding to match their broader benefits, but such determinations may be outside the scope of CBAC.
- Overall, I lean towards not using this criterion or using it to mark such projects for more scrutiny under CBAC rather than less.

6. Is the project a "build it and they will come" or is it a "please build it because we the people need it AND will use it"  e.g.a bike lane constructed because it seems to be a good idea but that never sees a bike pass through. There may be benign reasons for poor actual utilization of an otherwise reasonable project, but the project should identify and mitigate those risks before it is funded.

7. Shovel-ready vs. design stage projects.
- this should not be a criterion. Any prior investment in design or pre-engineering work in a project is a sunk cost at the time its further funding is being evaluated.

The above comments are wide-ranging and meant only to trigger the necessary dialog in our group. I may further split the topics into multiple threads once I hear from more people. 


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1 year 5 months ago #1029 by Kodi.Sawin
Thank you Rajeev. These are very good. I plan to spend time thinking through what you present here and respond with questions or comments.

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1 year 5 months ago #1030 by Larry.Wallace
Very true, although a desired regional focus is preferred based on the current and future growth of the county; we must also factor in how many people are positively impacted by a project whether it's a road, land acquisition, etc.

The level of impact should have multiple factors outside of how many plans (i.e., CAMPO, TXDPT, RMA, etc.) it is written into as all cities and communities don't have the same level of voice or outsider interest.

Will certain projects create new levels of opportunity (economic opportunity, decreased road congestion, etc.) in the long term than immediate relief?

Additionally, what projects if approved could result in partnering or add-on projects by other entities and governments because its best to do it while construction is occurring making it individually less costly.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kodi.Sawin

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1 year 4 months ago - 1 year 4 months ago #1033 by Wendy.Scaperotta
Thanks, Rajeev, for starting this discussion and Kodi and Larry for joining in.  Here are some preliminary thoughts, stimulated by this discussion, I’ve had regarding prioritization criteria.

1.     Time Sensitive:  Commissioners Court (CC) made it clear their reason for having a bond election this year was their concern about the decreasing availability of land and its rising cost, making land acquisition for parks and right-of-way a top priority.

2.     Project Completion: Citizens and the CC made investments in projects they valued and prioritized for investment, a commitment that we should honor (barring no good reason for not doing so).  This would include shovel-ready projects as well as projects that have legitimate need for additional funding (due perhaps to Covid spike in construction costs or supply chain issues).

3.     Consistent with/included in adopted plans: adopted plans articulate county values, have been vetted by the public, and approved by the court for implementation.  A project’s Inclusion in multiple plans represents a consistency of values. Funding them with voter-approved bonds is a logical extension of a previous commitment by the public and court, and although partnerships and other funding sources should always be pursued, voter-approved bond funds are the intended source of the lion’s share of funding for these CIP projects.

4.     Public Benefit: Perhaps this could be measured in general terms relative to the level of service of the facility being provided (e.g., is it a regional, community, or neighborhood facility) rather than number of people impacted or ROI which I fear would be hard to calculate and would exclude difficult to quantify cost benefits.

5.     Improve/Maintain functionality of existing facility:

I haven’t addressed equity as a criterion because I’d first like to hear the county’s presentation on the topic

Thanks again for starting this conversation.
Last edit: 1 year 4 months ago by Wendy.Scaperotta. Reason: Format error

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1 year 4 months ago #1034 by Larry.Wallace
The concern with assessing public benefit via asset level (neighborhood - regional) is it doesn't accurately capture the important data. An example, a neighborhood facility may in actuality be located in a more suitable place or have better offerings, etc., resulting in more foot traffic, impact, etc., than a regional facility - which is presumed to have the greater volume and impact.

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1 year 4 months ago #1035 by Larry.Wallace
Per our discussion today, attached is an example of weighting selection criteria that forces non-neutral selections.

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