City of Austin Approves Historic New Budget

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City of Austin Approves Historic New Budget

The Austin City Council has adopted a fiscal year 2019-2020 Budget.  At $4.2-billion, it's not only an historic high for a city budget in Austin, it's also 3.8-percent higher than the current year's budget.

The approved budget assumes a property tax rate of 44.31 cents per $100 of taxable value. According to the city, at that rate, the typical homeowner with a house at the median-area value of $353,265 would be $1,408.78 per year or $117.40 per month. This would be an increase of $91.71 per year or $7.64 per month.

“This Budget will get us closer to where we want to be on our shared citywide priorities, and will help us advance on the critical issues that will determine our future,” said Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk. “Thanks to Council and the community for taking this important step towards our goals.”
 
“In the coming year I plan to launch several initiatives to help us determine how we can best avoid a long-term structural imbalance in our budget as a result of the property tax cap, while continuing to provide the exemplary services that our community values and expects.”

Council began their deliberations on Tuesday working from Cronk's proposed budget, which included:

  • An historic $62.7 million budget in support of ending homelessness in Austin
  • 30 extra police officers and a new Fire/EMS station
  • $42 million of planned spending from the 2018 affordable housing bond
  • Hotel Occupancy Tax spending of $12.8 million in support of cultural arts and another $11.9 million spent in support of historic preservation.
  • $12.8 million for the Parks and Recreation Department’s Aquatics program, including $4.1 million for ongoing maintenance and $1.8 for capital improvements
  • Final phase of the Curbside Compost Collection Program rollout with a budget of $4.5 million
  • $10.8 million for sidewalk improvements

Council added an extra $4.6 million in new spending to Cronk's proposal on Tuesday, including an additional $550,000 towards tackling homelessness and the cleanup of Austin's numerous encampments.
 
The additional Budget commitments included funding for: 

  • Community health paramedics, expansion of EMCOT, and dispatcher training to improve responses to 9-1-1 mental health calls
  • A pay increase for City open-water lifeguards to $16 per hour
  • Extra resources for homeless encampment cleanups
  • Logistical and support services for Austin residents seeking abortion care
  • Outreach to help get a complete count in the 2020 Census
  • Relationship violence crisis intervention
  • Increased investment in Austin’s workforce training
  • Wildfire mitigation
  • Earlier staffing for a fire station in Del Valle/Moore’s Crossing while permanent station is completed
  • Council also added an additional $90,000 to the reserve fund.

One of the more controversial aspects to next year's budget is $150,000 in spending to provide pathways and more access to abortion services for women.  The group Texas Values released a statement regarding that funding:

“It is appalling the city of Austin doubled-down on its policies to ‘save the trees, kill the children.’ This budget amendment is a political stunt attempting to circumvent the law. If the city really wants to help women, they should lower their taxes and stop killing innocent children," said Director of Policy Nicole Hudgens.

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