Conservative strategy a key factor in initial Lakeway budget strategy talks

Sales tax revenue totaled $2.67 billion in June, down 6.5% from a year ago. (Courtesy Pexels)
Sales tax revenue totaled $2.67 billion in June, down 6.5% from a year ago. (Courtesy Pexels)

Sales tax revenue totaled $2.67 billion in June, down 6.5% from a year ago. (Courtesy Pexels)

According to Lakeway City Manager Julie Oakley, conservative budget planning is the name of the game in navigating whatever path the evolving COVID-19 pandemic lays down for the city.

"I think through next budget season, we're still going to see some effects [of the pandemic]," Oakley said. "My general advice for uncertain times is to take flight toward conservatism."

Lakeway officials commenced budget discussions during the July 6 City Council meeting, with a prominent topic being keeping the city's general fund revenue as healthy as possible in a nearly unprecedented financial landscape.

To illustrate how bad things could get, Oakley presented council members with a kind of worst-case-scenario projection of what sales tax deficits of 10% occurring every month of fiscal year 2020-21 could do.

Essentially, Oakley said, the city would see a 12-month drop in sales tax revenue of $455,489 from what would be the case if there were no pandemic.

"There is so much volatility in this number," Oakley said.

Other line items in the city's budget are looking at shortfalls as well, including municipal court fines and fees, which were budgeted to grab $582,000 in revenue for FY 2019-20 but which will now come in at about $320,000, falling short about $247,800, according to Oakley.

Building and development fees have not seen a decrease in permits, Oakley said, but added that the city will not see its projected revenues for FY 2019-20 due mainly to one large project the city was looking to charge for permitting, which has been delayed by pandemic. The city does expect those permit revenues to come in FY 2020-21, she said.

Other volatile line items were shown in a projected $163,950 shortfall in total fees from the Lakeway Activity Center.

"Bottom line: We're projecting we're going to be $14.2 million and we budgeted for $15.1 million [in revenue]," Oakley said, which amounts to a potential decrease of about $937,000 from what was budgeted for FY 2019-20.

Oakley said some of the bigger ways to make up the nearly $1 million deficit lies in making adjustments as the situation unfolds. Freezing open hiring of positions, holding capital expenditures and, if absolutely necessary, furloughs are all options to stop the bleeding, she said.

Lakeway Mayor Sandy Cox, addressing the media directly during the virtual meeting, said she wanted to make it absolutely clear that the city has not decided to furlough its employees.

"Furloughs would be my last choice, but we have to look as an executive team ... [and ask,] 'What do we need to do?'" said Oakley, who is taking the helm of her first budget strategy with Lakeway since she became city manager in 2019. "I never thought that my first budget as a city manager, I would be in this difficult of a decision-making situation."
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


Abby Jane Bakeshop held a soft opening Jan. 16-17 in Dripping Springs. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
From pastries to pizza, Abby Jane Bakeshop bringing treats to Dripping Springs

The new bakeshop is set to open Jan. 21 off Fitzhugh Road.

Lakeway to consider land annexation near Little Rough Hollow Cove, drawing attention of Spicewood neighbors

Lakeway will consider annexing a parcel of land and zoning the area for a park.

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

Three roadways in West Lake Hills are slated for improvements. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Drainage, pavement improvements slated for 3 West Lake Hills roadways

Three roadways in West Lake Hills identified as high-priority areas for improvements—Wildcat Hollow, Skyline Drive and Harbor View Drive—will soon undergo drainage and pavement upgrades.

Terry Boothe, pictured here at his West Pole ranch in Bee Cave, said Armadillo Day helps to preserve Texas heritage. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Armadillo Day to stay in hibernation due to COVID-19 pandemic

Health precautions delay annual event celebrating Texas culture.

Leah and Mark Mirra stand in front of their upcoming location of Lake Travis Pizza in the River Place neighborhood. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New York natives serve traditional pies in Texas

Restaurant set to open second location for dine-in service.

Photoo of Travis County sign
Austin City Council, Travis County Commissioners Court will hold rare joint session to address 'dire' COVID-19 status

County Judge Andy Brown called the meeting "an opportunity to coordinate responses."

Voters line up during the Dec. 15 runoff election. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legality of ranked-choice voting prompts disagreement between supporters, Austin city attorneys

If a Jan. 11 petition is validated, Austin voters could decide whether to support the implementation a ranked-choice voting system. But is it unconstitutional?

Community Impact Newspaper gathered a list of 30 restaurants that opened in the Lake Travis-Westlake area in 2020 or are coming soon in 2021. (Community Impact staff)
Check out 30 restaurants that arrived in the Lake Travis-Westlake area in 2020

Community Impact Newspaper gathered a list of 30 restaurants that opened in the Lake Travis-Westlake area in 2020 or are coming soon in 2021.