Austin City Council wrestles with $3.3 billion budget


by JADE MINGUS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @JadeM_KVUE

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 9 at 5:21 PM

AUSTIN--Austin City Council members are wrestling a $3.3 billion dollar budget.

Monday they debated proposals to cut and increase spending for various city programs. Mayor Lee Leffingwell is adamant he doesn't want a property tax increase.

Council Member Kathie Tovo pushed a proposal to cut police overtime spending on city trails. The measure will save the city more than $1 million in the pilot program that allocated officers to patrol trials overnight.

"I hope we find a way to a resolution that allows those trails to stay open," said Tovo.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says his department is already understaffed. He originally requested 92 new positions next fiscal year. As of Monday afternoon, 47 new officer positions are in the budget.

"When we have officers going call-to-call we can't take the time to provide the quality of interaction that we would really like to," said Acevedo.

Council Member Mike Martinez pushed for a 1.5 percent raise for city staff, and a one-time $750 payment, which would cost taxpayers $2.1 million. Later in the day, council members debated waiting to implement that raise after the first quarter.

"Many council members have the same goal of not wanting to raise taxes this year. I think they are capable of doing that," said Martinez.

Martinez says with $20 million in requests and $13 million available, some departments and programs will suffer. Nothing is set in stone, until a final vote.

The debate over the budget is expected to wrap up this week, with a final vote possibly by Tuesday.