Council: Proposed Budget Takes the Stage

City manager and budget staff lay out FY 2017 budget

Proposed Monthly Fee and Tax Increases Include the above
Proposed Monthly Fee and Tax Increases Include the above

On Wednesday morning, a somewhat diminished City Council heard the formal presentation of City Manager Marc Ott's FY 2017 city budget. (Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, and Sheri Gallo were out of town.) There were no major surprises – the big numbers haven't shifted much from the April forecasts, and the staff budget even manages a bit of wiggle room for at least a few of Council's wish-list priorities.

Much of that credit goes to Austin's continuing growth, reflected in $3.1 billion of new development and another double-digit percentage spike (13.7%) in property values, following 2014 (11%) and 2015 (12%). That means that both the All Funds budget (which includes the "enterprise" self-funding departments) and the General Fund (Operating Expense) budget have increased from FY 2016: All Funds from $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion, and the General Fund from $913.2 million to $969.2 million (an increase of $56 million). The sales tax revenue to help fund those changes is not so bullish: Projected at a 5.6% increase, thus far it's been arriving at a full point lower, although the budgeteers still expect it to reach 5.0% (nearly the 10-year average).

A few more big numbers:

• Proposed property tax rate: 44.11 cents per $100 of assessed value (1.78 cent decrease)

• Est. prop. tax increase (non-senior median value home, $278,741): $3.66/month

• Overall rate/fee increases ("typical" homeowner): $12.48/month

What can that prosperity buy for new Council initiatives?

• 52 new staff for EMS: $3.4 million

APD overtime for festival season: $1.5 million

• Funding new Shady Hollow fire station: $1.3 million

• Living wages for temp positions: $700,000

• Living wages for lifeguards: $400,000

• Child care (Passages program): $200,000

Total for new Council initiatives: $7.5 million.

Ott reported that he asked all departments to scrub their budgets to help fund other Council priorities, among them: addressing homelessness, mobility improvements, housing supply and affordability, density/workforce housing, creating development east of 183. That created room for a group of proposals:

• Increase transfer to the Housing Trust Fund: $1.1 million (to $2M)

• Permanent supportive housing: $600,000

• Social Service contracts increase: $500,000

• Initial contract funding, Sobriety Center: $380,000

• Implement Colony Park Master Plan: $217,000

The budget also addresses proposed changes for city employees, including public safety (APD, AFD, EMS) and "civilian" employees. Public safety salaries are set by negotiated union contracts (currently 2%); the budget proposes a 2% "performance-based" increase for civilian employees, a 29-cent/hour cost-of-living increase ($600/year, to offset an 8% health insurance hike), and annualized costs of civilian "market adjustments" approved by Council last year.

Additional increases and expenditures are itemized throughout the staff-proposed budget – all of which are subject to Council approval over the next month (and which the Chronicle will be reporting in due course). Based on the current projections, what will all these initiatives cost a "typical" homeowner (or indirectly, the renting majority through their rent)? See the chart above. – Michael King

Council: Proposed Budget Takes the Stage

Overall, Where Are We Spending Our Money?

The percentages of expenditures in the General Fund budget include:

• Public safety (APD, AFD, EMS, Municipal Court): 70.1%

• Community Services (Parks, Libraries, HHS, etc.): 21.9%

• Development/Planning (fee-funded): 4.8%

• Transfers & misc.: 3.2%

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Marc Ott, FY 2017 budget, City Council, Steve Adler, EMS, APD, Affordable Housing, AFD, HHS, Development

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