The Austin Chronicle

City Budget Breakdown

Utilities, Infrastructure, Growth Management

By Wells Dunbar, September 1, 2006, News

Today, Aug. 31, is the final presentation of the city's $525.3 million proposed budget for fiscal year 2007. Having previously wheeled out public safety and social-service presentations, it's easy to mistake for quiet housekeeping today's focus on Major Utilities and Infrastructure and Growth Management – but as Austin continues its unabated growth, these are the agencies directly responsible for steering it. City Manager Toby Futrell is anxious to accommodate, proposing several additions "in response to significant increase(s) in development activity." Increased demand comes at a price; as part of its budget, the debt-riddled Austin Water Utility is planning a rate increase. Today the city emphasizes growth's positive aspects, however, pulling out Austin Energy's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services for special merit. (As several of the groups are primarily funded by revenue, the presentation is more of a snapshot of their fiscal practices in accordance with the budget's overall picture; only one department, Neighborhood Planning and Zoning, is solely paid for in general fund dollars.)

The presentation is scheduled for 11am, with citizen input beginning at 6pm. Budget approval, which must pass on three readings, is scheduled for Sept. 11-13. – Wells Dunbar

Austin Energy

Overall budget is $1.12 billion, which is primarily funded (89%) via service area revenue.

Operations and Maintenance, including fuel costs, account for 67% of AE's budget.

AE pays 95% of Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services' $6.1 million budget.

The Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office manages construction of some of Austin's largest development projects, including Second Street, Block 21, and the planned Seaholm development.

Austin Water Utility

Overall budget is $342.1 million, primarily funded (94%) by water sales and wastewater service.

Debt Service is the most expensive of the utility's costs, accounting for 41.2% of the budget and $140 million in "debt transfers."

AWU is planning a rate increase of 7.1% (5.2% on water, and 9.2% on wastewater). According to Toby Futrell, Austin's average monthly bill of $49.95 would rise to $54.

Watershed Protection and Development Review

Overall budget is $71.1 million, primarily funded via residential and commercial utility drainage fees.

Includes: $13.6 million in funding for the "one stop shop" (a streamlined developer and builder permitting and regulatory group).

Adds: $515,000 for four full-time employees for faster building inspection, $308,000 to assist with residential zoning and commercial plan review.

Public Works

Overall budget is $61.5 million, primarily funded via transportation user fees imposed on residential and commercial customers, and charges on the city's Capital Improvement Projects. Includes:

$4.8 million transferred into the Transportation Fund's $36 million budget (which performs maintenance and repairs on the city's streets)

$2 million transferred into the Capital Projects Management Fund's $19.6 million budget (which oversees the city's Capital Improvement Projects)

Neighborhood Planning and Zoning

$4.5 million overall budget. Includes:

$1.34 million for neighborhood planning

$1.15 million for "current planning services" (Zoning cases management, historic preservation and zoning, annexation)

Takes in $216,000 in revenue, an increase due to "a higher volume of permit applications and permit reviews."

Adds: $66,000 for one full-time employee to assist with transportation and planning cases

Unfunded adds: $333,000 for one full-time employee to expedite implementation of neighborhood plans

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