AUSTIN, Texas—City staff presented the 2017 budget to Austin City Council Wednesday, totaling $3.7 billion. Of that, $969 million will cover the cost of providing city services through the General Fund.
The budget came incorporating previous Council decisions totaling $7.5 million in new costs, including 52 new Austin-Travis County EMS workers to adjust from a 48-hour to 42-hour work week. Another $1.5 million was added for SXSW coverage by the Austin Police Department.
City Manager Marc Ott said this year's budget is tighter than previous years.
"There is no way to satisfy all of those forces, so we are going to have to find compromise," he said.
Austin City Council approved increasing the general homestead exemption to eight percent in June, which cut $15 million in general fund revenue. That impact was eased by Austin Police only adding 12 sworn officers--down from 85 new officers this year--and 22 civilian positions, which is the same as this year.
"What's reflected in the budget for APD--all things considered--is a responsible way to continue to deliver high quality policing services even in these financial times when we are feeling that pressure," Ott said.
--General Fund Breakdown:--
• Public Safety: 71.5 percent
• Community Services: 20.7 percent
• Planning and Zoning/Development: 4.5 percent
• Transfers & Other: 3.2 percent
--Some of the city council’s top priorities for 2017 include:--
• Mobility improvements
• Housing shortage
• Eastside development
The proposed budget allots 66 million dollars for health and human service programs.
"You will see an increase in spending on health and human services and homeless programs; that's been a priority of this Council," Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo said.
District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, who represents far Southeast Austin, said it's not enough. Garza wants the Health and Human Services Department to receive at least $70 million, so it can continue to catch up after years for underfunding.
"It's about many areas in people's lives, including: helping children succeed in school, caring for our elderly, and keeping parents healthy so they can better care for their families," she said.
Many residents support leaving spending allocations alone. In a public survey, the largest desired increase in spending would be expansion of mental health aimed at the majority of homeless population.
• Bicycle infrastructure was most polarizing topic, which had most push for increase and decrease of funding.
• International business recruitment most recommended to decrease
• All but three districts ranked cutting business recruitment as the most important priority.
• A proposed 2 percent merit-based increase will cost $2.4 million from the general fund, totaling $9.8 million overall
• All city employees will receive a pay raise of $0.29 an hour to cover increased healthcare costs.
• The final year of contracts for the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, and Austin-Travis County EMS will see a 2 percemt increase coming to all sworn employees per contract.
• 52 new paramedics and EMTs
• 34 new APD positions (12 sworn, 22 civilian) to increase proactive community policing
• 3 firefighters for ABIA fire station, $277,000 would be funded by the airport
• $3 million for Austin Fire Department overtime pay due to hiring backlog and growing vacancies
• The living wage increases to $13.50 and is set to reach $15 by 2019
• 39 new positions are proposed for Development Services Department to handle expedited review, site inspections
The Austin City Budget is broken into two volumes totaling more than 1,600 pages.
• Click here (.pdf) to view Volume I of the proposed budget
• Click here (.pdf) to view Volume II of the proposed budget