A group of religious leaders is speaking out over the City of Austin's budget.

Austin’s budget is $53 million larger next year. Right now, about $22 million is earmarked for hiring more police officers.

“This is despite the fact that public safety crimes and dispatches have decreased since 2008,” Kayvon Sabourian with Austin Interfaith said.

Sabourian says the city budget has grown 38 percent since 1999, and 95 percent of that increase went to police, fire and EMS. The FBI ranks Austin the second safest large city in the country.

Sabourian says that money would have a greater impact serving Austin’s poor. Some 20 percent of Austin children live below the poverty line.

“One would think that with this kind of crisis, our city would do everything possible to ensure that the next generation has every chance it needs to succeed,” Sabourian said.

This year, the city shelled out $400,000 for after-school programs. That expense is not part of next year’s budget.

“We cannot be successful without community support,” Austin ISD school board President Gina Hinojosa said. “A community cannot be successful without strong schools.”

Hinojosa says the amount the state takes would only grow if the school district raised taxes. The school funding formula takes money from property-rich districts like Austin.

“I understand the city wants to keep taxes down. The best way the city can do that is to help us keep our tax rate low,” Hinojosa said. “Right now, it’s three times the city, and 40 percent of that is going to the state.”

Advocates also want to see the city’s living wage raised to $13 an hour and extend it to temporary and contract workers.

The City Council will have a final public hearing on the budget next week. It starts at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Austin City Hall. You can learn more at austintexas.gov/finance.

Council will adopt the budget in early September.


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