Austin leaders negotiating budget deal


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:03 AM

AUSTIN -- Mayor Lee Leffingwell has drawn a line in the sand on the city's budget.

"I'm trying to make that absolutely clear right now that I will not vote for a tax rate increase," said Leffingwell. 

City staff presented the city council a $3.3 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes a slightly higher property tax rate. The median home owner would pay $48 more next year. That's on top of increasing fees from Austin Energy and Austin Water Utility.

"If we can't hold the line now, when we're probably doing better from an economic perspective than any city in the country, if we can't hold our tax rate constant during these times, when can we?" said Leffingwell.

Leffingwell says in order for the tax rate to stay the same, the City would have to free up $7.3 million in the budget.

His announcement that he would not support a tax hike prompted City staff to take another look at the budget. Staffers identified $15.5 million that could be saved.

Nearly $8 million comes from revenue the City didn't realize it would have, including $1.5 million from property taxes and $4 million from sales tax for 2013 and 2014. If the City eliminates fee waivers for major events, such as South by Southwest, it could save another $990,929. 

The other $7.5 million comes from changes in what the city plans to spend. If each department reduces its budget by one percent, with the exception of police, fire and EMS, that could free up $1.5 million. Reducing overtime for the 24/7 trail pilot program saves $525,000.

Leffingwell says the council has consistently raised rates, and homeowners need a break. He also wants members of the council to remember that even without an increase in the property tax rate, home owners will pay more next year because of increased appraisal values.

To see the full report of suggested changes, click here.