The Austin Chronicle

Budget 'Highlights' -- the Bad News

August 8, 2003, News

Some "highlights" -- a word city staff has been loath to use this season -- of the $38.2 million in spending cuts Futrell has made in her proposed current budget:

Austin Fire Department

The controversial "quint/squad model" -- which involves downsizing crews at four urban-core and four suburban-fringe fire stations -- will save $1.1 million by eliminating 27 (vacant) firefighter jobs.

Planning and Development

The much-maligned city development-review-and-permitting shop is losing $1.1 million, 40% of its budget; a single, much smaller team of reviewers will now be in charge of every step of a project's development process.

Health and Human Services

Futrell is proposing a $4.5 million cut to HHS (nearly 38% of its proposed FY 04 budget), including a 10% across-the-board cut to social-service contracts and major cuts to youth and animal-services programs.

Parks and Libraries

"Nontraditional" PARD programs like Totally Cool, Totally Art, and the Summer Playgrounds Program are being cut from 25% to 50%; funding for Pioneer Farm (focus of many budget battles of yore) is being eliminated entirely. Branch libraries and the Austin History Center will be closed one additional day a week, and the library is losing 42% of its book budget.

New Facilities

PARD and the library will also save the operating costs for 1998 bond projects like the Mexican-American Cultural Center, the Turner/Roberts Recreation Center in Colony Park, the Spicewood Springs and Terrazas library expansions, and the new North Village and Twin Oaks branches. All these projects, among others, are being delayed two years from their current schedules. (Projects already under way, like the Carver Library and Museum, and public safety projects, are going forward as planned.)

Other Stuff

The Neighborhood Academy program, the Office of Dispute Resolution, a number of department-level public-information staffers, a large chunk of the Information Systems department, many Human Resources positions, half the staff of Channel 6 -- and, yes, the Austin Music Network -- are all being cut.

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