AUSTIN -- Summer vacation is over for members of the Austin City Council, who met Thursday morning to talk money.
City staff presented a $3.5 billion budget proposal to the council. Civilian city employees would get a 3 percent raise in the proposal, and the living wage for employees would increase to $13.03 an hour for full-time employees. The budget also includes $75,000 for transgender benefits.
It also creates 347 new jobs, including eight more code officers, 27 staff members to help with the city's permit backlog and 48 positions for the new downtown library.
Public safety will also see staffing increases. The Austin Police Department would add 85 officers plus 21 civilian staff positions. Included in those 21 positions are 15 to take 911 calls. EMS would add 12 positions to staff a new unit.
Sworn-staff in both departments would get a 1 percent raise, while firefighters get a 2.5 percent raise, as laid out in the firefighters association collective bargaining agreement with the city.
Police Chief Art Acevedo said adding officers will help the department improve community relations.
"We're proposing 85 new sworn police officers to really deal with the lack of time that we have to engage the community, our frontline officers to be able to build relationships," Acevedo said.
If council adopts this budget, homeowners and renters will be paying more in utility fees and property taxes.
"We've worked really hard to kind of balance what we have to do in terms of the growth pressures that we feel," said City Manager Marc Ott. "The other part is there is a real affordability issue here."
City staff want to increase the tax rate from $0.4809 to $0.4814. For the median-value homestead of $232,272 that comes out to an increase of just under $40 a year in property taxes.
Several city utilities want to charge more, including Austin Water. It wants the "typical" customer to pay about $5 more each month, while Austin Energy wants to charge $2.22 less each month. All of the increases mean the typical homeowner will pay $11.30 more each month in taxes and fees.
This presentation is the first in a lengthy budget process. The council will hear department budget presentations and hold public hearings before voting on a budget in September.