Austin will operate the 2018-2019 fiscal year with its largest budget to date after City Council Tuesday approved the record $4.1 billion operating budget.
The owner of a median-valued home at $332,366 will pay roughly $1,317 in city property taxes, a $66.87 increase over last year. The increase is nearly half of the $117 increase in city taxes taxpayers experienced through the previous budget. Primary residence homeowners will benefit from a 10 percent homestead exemption—up from last year’s 8 percent exemption—resulting in a median savings of roughly $29.33.
Including property taxes and fees from Austin Energy, Austin Water, resource recovery, clean community, transportation user and drainage utility, the median homeowner will pay $4,021.27 to the city next year—a $77.31 increase over last year.
The council approved the budget 10-1, with District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair the lone objector. The budget approval took only one day of dais discussion, a sharp contrast to council’s typical three-day budget negotiation endurance test in previous years.
City Manager Spencer Cronk said his one-on-one discussions with council members in the weeks leading up to adoption helped set the budget’s parameters and policy framework, streamlining what is typically a marathon process for City Council. Kay Guedea, council liaison for the city manager’s office, said in her 43 years with the city, she can remember only one other budget that passed after just one day of deliberations.
During Tuesday’s discussion, City Council increased the property tax revenue 5.45 percent from last year, up from the city manager-recommended 4.9 percent increase. The extra roughly $2 million in taxes added money to programs related to homelessness, parent support, and victim services.
The 5.45 percent property tax revenue increase fell well short of the state-mandated revenue increase cap of 8 percent—a limit Austin City Council has typically pushed toward. The relatively low increase comes as state lawmakers consider restricting municipalities from increasing property tax revenue by more than 5 percent without voter approval.
Highlights of the budget include funding for 33 new police officers, 12 of which were approved but unfunded in the fiscal year 2017-18 budget. An additional $2 million was put toward the city’s homelessness response and spending for the city’s housing department increased by nearly $7 million.