Toby Futrell's Budget

Highlights and details

Last week, City Manager Toby Futrell presented her "Fiscal 2007 budget plan" to the City Council, noting that the local economy is improving and that her proposed budget "continues to rebuild our services, respond to growth, and reinvest in our workforce following several years of economic downturn." The budget as proposed is "balanced" at the effective tax rate – 39.85 cents per $100 of assessed property value – which would bring in the same amount of property-tax revenue as last year and is four cents below the current (nominal) rate. The charts below provide some details and highlights of the proposed budget.

Proposed General-Fund Spending

Public Safety: $345.8 million

Police register at $196.6 million, the bulk of public safety. The Fire Department is at $106 million; added funds would restore four "frontline" firefighter positions. EMS, currently at $38.1 million, is a "top priority for reinvestment," says Futrell, with creation of a new "peak load unit" for periods when call volume climbs. Public safety and emergency management (airport, parks, and muni-courts police) claim the remaining $5.1 million.


Parks and Library: $52.4 million

The Parks Department's $31.4 million covers current programs and provides for a refurbished Town Lake Park, the Mexican American Cultural Center, and a new Northeast rec center in 2007. The library adds additional security and staff with $21 million.

Health and Human Services: $30.9 million

H&HS' allowance keeps pace with costs of vaccines, employees, and operating the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The African American Quality of Life Initiative is allotted $128,000, and $125,000 would go toward "graffiti abatement."

Neighborhood Planning and Zoning/Watershed Protection and Development Review: $18.9 million

With building booming, watershed's $14.4 million budget includes $515,000 toward quicker site inspection; NP&Z's $4.5 million funds jobs in downtown design, neighborhood planning, design standards, and historic zoning.

Municipal Court: $10.1 million

The capstone of the court budget is a switch to round-the-clock court at central booking. The graveyard shift costs $313,000 bones.

Transfers/Other: $67.2 million

This nebulous category accounts for project funding and support staff in offices like sanitation or the law department. The budget proposes an increase for funding these offices, including council offices. Adoption of an expanded "plus-one" insurance program (i.e., beyond domestic partnerships) remains an open question for council.

Budget Timeline

The City Council will consider the budget department by department, in a series of public hearings over the next month, before voting on a final proposal in September.

• August 10 - Community Services: Parks and Recreation, Library, Health and Human Services, Housing and Development, Solid Waste Services

• August 24 - Public Safety: Public Safety, Police, Fire, Emergency Medical Services, Municipal Court, Emergency Management

• August 31 - Major Utilities/Infrastructure and Growth Management: Energy, Water, Public Works, Watershed Protection and Development Review, Neighborhood Planning and Zoning, Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services

Strategic Additions – Funded

New Spending by Category / Cost

Public Safety: $2.4 million

Community Services: $2.4 million

Central Support Services: $1.3 million

Total: $6.1 million

The staff-proposed city budget includes $6.1 million for what City Manager Futrell calls "Strategic Adds": "critical unmet needs … crucial to the effective delivery of our core city services." These costs would be met under the budget's "effective" tax rate (the same revenue as last year).

"Public safety" adds include additional positions in EMS, firefighters, and police.

"Community services" increases include building inspections, code enforcement, planning, parks, and libraries.

"Central support services" would restore 22 positions across categories including building services, finance, human resources, legal services, auditing, and the city clerk's office.

Proposed Additions – Unfunded

Needs by Category / Cost

Public Safety: $1.9 million

Community Services: $3.3 million

Support Services: $0.1 million

Workforce Initiatives: $1.2 million

Affordable Housing: $1.2 million

Total: $7.7 million

The staff-proposed city budget identifies an additional $7.7 million in "unfunded strategic adds" – that is, unfunded under the effective tax rate. Paying for these would require a higher tax rate, but still below the current ("nominal") rate. These categories do not include other needs as identified in previous policy discussions: job training, preventive street maintenance, and afterschool programs, among others.

"Public safety" additions would include 15 future EMS paramedics, additional civilian police staff and lake patrol, and replacement firefighter gear.

"Community services" range from a South Austin day-labor site to affordable housing funding.

"Workforce initiatives" include expanded health-insurance coverage for city employees and bilingual pay.

Potential Tax Rates

Rate Type / Rate per $100

Effective Rate: 39.85

Rollback Rate: 41.26

Nominal Rate: 44.30

The proposed budget lists three potential property-tax rates:

The "effective" rate of 39.85 cents would bring in the same amount of revenue as last year; this is the rate on which the staff-proposed budget is based.

The "rollback" rate of 41.26 would bring in additional funds, estimated at $8.4 million; it's the maximum rate allowed without triggering a state-required election.

The current ("nominal") rate of 44.30 cents would produce another $18 million on top of that, but it would require a city election.

Toby Futrell's Budget

Tax Rate Comparisons

City officials point with pride to Austin's property-tax rate in comparison with other major Texas cities; Austin's rate can be significantly lower because of the relatively higher value of Austin property and because the city owns its electric utility, Austin Energy, providing another major source of income. This chart compares the tax rates and average property-tax bills for five major cities, at current rates.

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