$3.7 billion Austin budget presented

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Austin City Council will tackle a $3.7 billion proposed budget during the next several weeks.

City Manager Marc Ott and city staff presented the proposed fiscal year 2016-17 budget July 27 as the council convened for its first of several budget work sessions this month. It is gearing up for a September adoption of the financial document.

Of the $3.7 billion, $969.2 million is proposed to come out of the city’s general fund, or primary operating budget. The proposed amount for the general fund is up about $58.05 million, or 6.37 percent, from the previous year.

An Austin homeowner who is not eligible for senior citizen property tax relief and who owns a $278,741 home—the city’s median value—would face a city tax bill hike from $1,087 in FY 2015-16 to $1,131 in FY 2016-17, an increase of $43.99, according to city documents.

However, the city’s proposed budget does not entail an increase in the property tax rate. City staff is actually proposing a decrease from 0.4589 per $100 valuation to 0.4411 per $100 valuation. But rising property values will cause an increase to homeowners’ tax bills.

Here are the highlights of the proposed budget:

  • Tax exemptions, such as a 2 percent increase in the homestead exemption
  • An 8 percent increase in the city’s contribution to offset employee health insurance costs
  • A $40 million capital improvement spending plan for public works projects, such as street, bridge, trails, bicycle lanes and walkability improvements
  • 12 new sworn police officer positions in the Austin Police Department
  • The addition of three firefighters to service the airport fire station
  • $762,000 for smart and wireless phone service to support APD body cameras
  • A 2 percent performance-based salary increase for civilian employees
  • $3.4 million for the opening of the New Central Library

At a press conference held later that afternoon, Council Member Delia Garza, along with Austin ISD trustee Paul Saldaña, the Austin Interfaith organization and other city leaders all urged the city of Austin to keep funding for its Health and Human Services programs at an adequate level.

Health and Human Services programs work on issues that include helping children succeed in school, caring for the elderly and keeping parents healthy so they can care for their families, Garza said.

The council made a commitment in 2014 to increase the funding for health and human services programs to make the amount of funding in line with peer cities like San Antonio in the next three to five years, she said. To keep the funding level for the programs, the city will have to invest $8.3 million, but the proposed FY 2016-17 budget is only allocating about half that cost.

“I firmly believe that Austin’s budget priorities should reflect our values, and we must put our people first,” Garza said.

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JJ Velasquez
The Central Austin editor since 2016, JJ covers city government and other topics of community interest—when he's not editing the work of his prolific writers. He began his tenure at Community Impact Newspaper as the reporter for its San Marcos | Buda | Kyle edition covering local government and public education. The Laredo, Texas native is also a web developer whose mission is to make the internet a friendly place for finding objective and engaging news content.
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