Austin passes record $3.9 billion budget, increases tax rate

Austin City Council passed the 2018 budget on Sept. 13 after three days of deliberations. The $3.9 billion budget is the largest in city history.

Austin City Council passed the 2018 budget on Sept. 13 after three days of deliberations. The $3.9 billion budget is the largest in city history.

Austin will operate on a $3.9 billion budget following City Council’s passage of the fiscal year 2017-18 spending plan on Wednesday night, a record-high budget for the rapidly growing city.

The passage comes after three days of lengthy budget discussions and negotiations, with each council member fighting to allocate money to programs they felt would improve the city's operation. The $3.9 billion budget—which includes revenues and expenditures through the city’s taxes, airport, convention center and water and electric utility—is the largest in Austin’s history.

The council voted 8-3 to set the tax rate at 44.48 cents per $100 of a home’s assessed value, an increase over last year’s rate of 44.18 cents. With Austin’s median homes now at $305,510, the median homeowner can expect to pay $1,250 per year or $104.18 per month. District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair and District 1 Council Member Ora Houston dissented.

According to deputy chief financial officer Ed Van Eenoo, with the inclusion of city fee increases, the median homeowner will pay about $151.44 more in city taxes and fees over last year.

Interim city manager Elaine Hart said she was proud of the budget passed on Wednesday night.

“It’s been a long journey, obviously we are all tired,” Hart said. “I appreciated the [council’s] partnership and direction. I think we passed a good budget.”

The city’s general fund—funded by mostly by property tax, sales tax and fees and used to fund city departments, staff and programs—is over $1 billion, also a city record.

The largest pieces of the property tax revenue pie will be spent on public safety—$687.5 million—and parks and recreation—$83.4 million Following intense and extensive debate, the council voted to use $92,000 from the city’s reserve funds, dropping it below the recommended 12 percent level.

In its third year of policymaking, the 10-1 council took a different approach that had budget discussions began as early as February, with each city department presenting look-back and look-ahead for their own budgets. According to Van Eenoo, the new approach also involved considerable public outreach and town hall presentations.


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