The Austin Chronicle

Live-Blogging the City Budget Adoption

By Wells Dunbar, September 10, 2007, 9:56am, Newsdesk

So here we are – about to start adoption of the final Fiscal Year 2007-08 Budget for the City of Austin. But, despite there being three days scheduled to do so, odds are your boy won't be typing that long. (I hope not!) The previous couple years were short, sweet and literally scripted; each council member taking turns to announce funds for their pet project, it was like some awesome Christmas morning the kept going.

However, that was then. This budget's been far more politically charged, with council members bucking against the City Manager's preparation. Plus, as she budgeted most of the discretionary spending already under the auspice of "council priorities," there's far fewer scraps to fight over – a move more Machiavellian readers might ascribe to a divide-and-conquer ideology on Futrell's part.

More in a moment.

Sitting behind the AV control-table, I see iTunes running, raising the frightening prospect of a theme song. Last year, when the budget was adopted, the PA started blaring – no shit – "My Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)." Guess "My Future's So Bright (I Got no Choice but to go with the Highest Property Tax to Close a $27 Million Gap") was unavailiable.

Kate Alexander suggests the Star Trek theme, bringing this whole endeavor full circle.

Whole gang is finally on the dais. Should start any moment now …

Wynn has called the meeting to order, describing the process. "Lots of input, lots of analysis … Big and complicated."

Items 1 and 2 pertain to the search for a new City Manger - authorizing up to $40,000 for a search to find Futrell's replacement. And it passes …

Read the continuing coverage inside …

The city operating budget is now adopted. And potential amendments can be offered … Betty Dunkerley moves to go with the higher rollback tax rate to bring in $840K more. Passes.

Brewster McCracken lowers public safety spending, as they've got Downtown boosters to pay for the park patrollers down there. Lee Leffingwell's got similar belt cinching measures – cutting $350,000 by getting Travis County to share the load on prison costs. They're cutting the fat to find more money to spend.

Jennifer Kim has added $26K for bilingual bonuses for speakers of asian dialects. Leffingwell's got $125K for an "eldercare facility." (Conflict of interest?) Mike Martinez is adding $275K for Capital Idea. Now Dunkerley has $166K for American Youthworks. Kim gets $100K for Communities in School. Dunkerley with $140K for Center for Child Protective Services. Now $100K for construction of the Austin Children's Shelter. Martinez, $40 for Fuentes After School Program. Sheryl Cole, $40K for Michael Lofton's Men and Boys conference, via the Office of Police Monitor. Leffingwell, $37K for Deep Eddy pool during the Springs' renovation. Kim, $25K for the Alliance for Public Transportation. Cole, $100K for economic growth and redevelopment services through Austin Energy, specifically for "small business mapping," a website for small and locally owned business.

McCracken, $125K for Brewster's precious Biotechnology! Leffingwell's got a question – ooh! Is asking about the tech incubator's budget. Now he's asking about performance standards. Intriguing …

One-time allocations: $2.7 million refunded (I think) on those goddamn ethanol cop cars (cause they bought them early, last council meet), $2.09 million for women firefighter changing facilities, $1.7 million for the Lady Bird Lake boardwalk. Now zeroing out the one-time funds …

The best for last?: McCracken's shitcanning of $396K for the Austin City Store, transferring the money and positions back to their bosses at the Convention Center. Because there's no problems there, either. Martinez says don't give up on a public use for the space, i.e., peak-time police patrols, or similar public safety-esque stuff. Leffingwell's iterating that no tax dollars were used to subsidize snowglobes, just mainly hotel taxes. Wait, that's a tax …

Clean up amendments – supposedly. But a lot relates to our friend the Convention Center. "taking what had been a single fund," says Wynn, "and bifurcating that," separate funds for repair, replacement, advertising. Futrell says it's part of new controls at the Convention Center.

Now "special" revenue fund amendments – yippee!

And the whole thing is finally passed. "And that takes us to our capital budget," says Wynn. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Leffingwell's increasing appropriations by over $6 million for the Barton Springs master plan. Martinez says show some love to the south (free) shores. But no bathroom/bathhouse bucks for southside in this …

Kim moves to amend the for the $1.7 million for the trail extension mentioned earlier. Martinez similarly with his firefighter changing amendment. Now four more clean-up amendments (including spending on new golf carts!) Also $19 million for the Downtown chilled water system grid, and $19 for decommissioning Holly Power Plant. Wynn's getting his Al Gore on explaining the powers of huge ice cubes. Oh man …

Now on to state-required libertarian-humping codification of the property tax increase. Let's drown government in a bathtub! Yee-haw!

40.34 cents in the house. Now onto adopting fees and fines.

Now on to civil service and personnel policies. Apparently, reimbursement for military leave was restricted to one specific military action (Enduring Freedom, or whatever), instead of service in general. Weird.

Now it's reimbursements from bonds and utilities. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yeah buddy – $9.1 million for Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing. Now another Convention Center amendment, this one executing a contract to caterers Aramark. And $5.9 million for cultural arts contracts.

And they've adjourned the actual council meeting to meet as the Austin Housing Finance Corporation and as the Mueller Local Government Corporation. Everybody leaves. Including me.

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