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Council: By the Numbers

Summer break is almost over for City Council

By Michael King, Fri., July 25, 2014

We may just be hitting the triple digits outside, but down at City Hall, it's nearly September – budget adoption deadline. City Council budget work sessions resume next week (July 31), and regular sessions follow the week after, Aug. 7. The end of the annual summer break also brings other big dollar issues: Council will be making its budget adjustments in the shadow of the decision on the transportation bond, perhaps $1 billion in rail and road investments to be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot. There are no proposals to raise the property tax rate, but with surging housing values (and therefore rising tax bills), there's increasing political pressure to lower the rate – how much they can do that while maintaining city services is the annual juggling act.

Council also must decide whether the city can find more money for homeowner buyouts in the Onion Creek floodplain; the recent court decision rejecting Austin Water's drainage fee structure has thrown a monkey wrench into that funding possibility, so there will likely be a scramble on that issue.

All of this takes place in new historical context, the campaigns for the 10-1 Council, to be elected in November and take office in January. There are plenty of numbers dancing around those campaigns; nearly 70 candidates (for mayor and the 10 district officers) had earlier declared an interest (designating campaign treasurers), and on July 21, formal filing began. The early action was relatively slow – as of Wednesday morning, all of 10 candidate filings had been posted to the City Clerk's website – but that's likely to become a flood over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the initial July 15 campaign finance filings reflected a range of money numbers, the most dramatic being mayoral candidate Steve Adler's raising of more than $360,000 through June 30 (easily a new record for the mayor's race, bolstered by another $194,000 in his own loans). That's gonna buy a lot of doorhangers featuring angelic photos of Adler's boyhood – and the campaign has already hired the biggest campaign team by far. District numbers – where in most districts, $40,000 represented a big initial kitty – were generally not so dramatic, but in District 10, Republican hopeful Robert Thomas raised $50,000 and added a loan to his campaign of $100,000, raising the money bar on the first 10-1 Council.

For more details on the fundraising, see last week's issue ("The Money Race"), and to follow the bouncing candidates, check out the Elections page at austinchronicle.com/elections.

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