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.