'The Worst of All Worlds'

Demand for community services is going up, but the FY 04 proposed budget cuts funding for those services significantly:

Parks and Recreation Dept. A $3.5 million cut translates into reductions of between 23% and 55% in PARD programs like the Summer Playgrounds and Totally Cool, Totally Art, and funding for Pioneer Farms is zeroed out entirely. The Roving Leader program is being combined with existing rec center programs, and the Park Police budget is being shrunk by 13%.

Austin Public Library. A $2.2 million cut means all 20 branch locations, plus the Austin History Center, will be closed either Thursday or Friday (nearby branches will close on alternate days). And the materials budget is being slashed by 42%.

Health and Human Services. A $4.5 million cut will eliminate the Summer Youth Program and SIHRY (Strategic Interventions for High-Risk Youth) and trim funding for social-service contracts (except for mental health and HIV/AIDS services) by 10% overall; each of the 50-plus agencies that get city funding may see a greater or lesser cut to its contract.

Along with direct-service cuts, the FY 04 proposed budget calls for a two-year delay in the construction of the following projects:

LIBRARIES: Expansions to Spicewood Springs (in far Northwest Austin) and Terrazas (on East Cesar Chavez); replacement branches for North Village (in Crestview) and Twin Oaks (on South Congress).

PARKS: Town Lake Park Phase II (next to the new Palmer Events Center); Colorado River Park (in Montopolis); the Mexican American Cultural Center (Downtown, at the foot of Rainey Street); Gus Garcia Recreation Center (on East Rundberg); and Colony Park Recreation Center (on Loyola Lane).

Stay Tuned for Round 3!

No council meeting this week, but next week, Aug. 28, will see discussion of the infrastructure departments -- planning, transportation, and so on -- and will likely be dominated by the city's controversial downsizing and "streamlining" of the city development review process. Final adoption of the budget -- with or without the tax-rate-cutting "forced trade-offs" Mayor Will Wynn has yet to actually suggest -- is scheduled for Sept. 8, 9, and 10.

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