AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Austin City Council met Tuesday to continue work on the budget for fiscal year 2016-2017. The result was $1,334,860 in cuts.
The council is working to approve a $3.7 billion budget. While that is a large sum of money, council didn't have a surplus to work with this budget session because of the homestead tax exemption now given to Austin homeowners along with new city positions and programs added by the council over the year. In fact, the budget process started with a $3.8 million deficit.
In July, City Manager Marc Ott and his staff presented a budget proposal to council that did not include all the initiatives and staff they would have liked because of that deficit. The council then crafted it's budget concept menu, a list of things they want added in.
Mayor Steve Adler and his team took that list and combined parts of it with the staff proposed budget to develop a working budget for the council to use, but it wasn't balanced and was in the red by more than $160,000.
"We're working off of basically two, we're two steps ahead, a proposed manager's budget and now the mayor's budget and we're trying to get additional cuts that maybe the mayor didn't agree with so they're not on his budget, and then also trying to take things out and put things back in," explained Council Member Delia Garza, District 2.
Council had three meetings set to approve the budget on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday, it did not vote on the budget and instead talked with various departments about what could be cut from their budgets. Tuesday they voted on more than $1.33 million of cuts.
Council made the following cuts to the budget:
- $55,000 from the Development Services Department
- $5,370 from the Parks and Recreation Department (these funds will now come from the Hotel Occupancy Tax)
- $84,639 from the Planning and Zoning Department for a Long Term Planner full time employee position
- $41,827 from the Human Resources Department for a full time employee who would process criminal background checks of potential city employees
- $873,573 of capital improvement projects (these projects will now be funded through the Capital Improvement Fund)
- $235,000 from the Development Services Department for the third party plan review program
- $39,451 from the City Clerk which will delay the hire of two positions, a public information officer and assistant city clerk
The council then voted to add items into the budget, including:
- $300,000 to increase the senior homestead tax exemption
- $300,000 for Health and Human Services contracts
- $50,000 for the Downtown Community Court Rehabilitation Services
- $175,000 for the childcare continuum
- $200,000 for the Healthy Food Retail program
Because the council didn't take a vote to approve the budget Tuesday and has a deadline of Sept. 15 to approve it, it will have to approve the budget on all three readings Wednesday. The city charter requires approval of ordinances on all three readings in one vote to have seven affirmative votes, rather than six, for approval.
(© 2016 KVUE)