One of the big items on the proposed budget includes cuts to the Austin Police Department. In June, Cronk laid out plans to restructure the department, including reallocating funds and eliminating some jobs.
The meeting took place on Facebook Live at 2 p.m.:
The proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year of $4.2 billion – the same size as last year’s – adjusts to new fiscal constraints and community expectations, with focused investments in core programs and City infrastructure, according to the city manager's office. The proposed $1.1 billion general fund budget supports re-imagining public safety through a reallocation of police funding to health, housing, and other critical social services. The capital budget includes $1.2 billion in planned spending.
At least $11.3 million is expected to be cut from the APD budget. The Austin Justice Coalition had previously requested a $100 million budget cut while other groups asked for $225 million.
The $11.3 million proposed reduction to APD's budget included the following:
- Eliminating 100 vacant police officer positions from the forecast budget for a total reduction of $9.2 million.
- Delaying the July 2020 cadet class resulting in an estimated $1.5 million reduction.
- Delaying scheduled replacement of duty weapons, resulting in a $400,000 reduction.
- Transferring Austin Center for Events staff to the Development Services Department for a reduction of $200,000.
The reallocation of funds would go to the following:
- $3 million to enhance the work of the Office of Police Oversight and the Equity Office, rewrite the APD’s General Orders and conduct and implement audits.
- $2.7 million to improve mental health first response by expanding the Integral Care-EMCOT contract for clinical staff and telehealth services, increasing community outreach to underserved communities and adding seven new positions to the Community Health Paramedic program.
- $2.3 million reallocation within the APD budget to replace the department’s 15-year-old records management system, which will allow for more-efficient records keeping.
- $1.1 million to increase the capacity of mental health services, family violence programs and immigrant legal services provided by Austin Public Health.
- $1.0 million transfer to the Housing Trust Fund to support key affordable housing goals, including preserving and creating reasonably priced housing within the City of Austin.
- $900,000 reallocated within the APD’s budget to fund targeted training related to trauma-informed response, unconscious bias, and racial and cultural sensitivity, as well as training to safely administer Naloxone to someone experiencing a drug overdose.
- $300,000 to support the newly formed Civil Rights Office, which is tasked with enforcement of City ordinances and federal statutes prohibiting discrimination.
"People experiencing a mental health crisis need an immediate health care response as well as follow-up care," Councilmember Ann Kitchen said on Friday. "[The EMCOT] program offers a mental health professional when a person calls 911. Doubling the budget for this program and periodic review, gets us closer to ensuring funding for the program meets our community’s need."
"The city manager has increased funding for the necessary services that puts boots on the ground for trained mental health professionals to address these needs in our community," said Councilmember Leslie Pool. "This will benefit our first responders as well as our citizens."
“Austin remains engulfed by a pandemic that has caused tragic loss across our community, upended our way of life, and triggered an unprecedentedly swift economic contraction. At the same time, the City is taking new steps to confront and end the long history of systemic injustices experienced by people of color by our public safety institutions,” Cronk said. “This budget meets these crises head-on, building on work to combat COVID-19 and help our community recover from its effects while accelerating the process of re-imagining our public safety system to ensure justice and equal treatment for all our residents.”
Even though the cuts are what Chas Moore, the head of the Austin Justice Coalition, and other activists have been asking for, he said they don't go far enough.
"We have a very far way to go before we get to a budget that I think reflects the current time that we're in," said Moore. "I think we have a very long way to go before we have a budget that people, and when I say people, I mean in the community can be proud of to say, 'Hey, you know, I think we actually being heard that.'"
Ken Casaday, head of the Austin Police Association, is also disappointed. Casaday said the department actually needs more money and bodies since Austin is growing.
"We're disappointed in that. We were trying to [hire] 30 bodies this year. You know, the cold, hard facts are that COVID has not slown Austin down as far as growth. There's still people moving here," said Casaday.
During a protest focused on defunding the APD over the weekend, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza told KVUE the proposed budget doesn't go far enough when it comes to reallocating funds.
"I'm not happy with very minimal cuts that have been made to APD, and some of those cuts include actually cutting it out but then putting it back in," Garza said. "I am looking for a much more significant investment in housing and mental health and public health and unless I see that, I can't vote yes on the budget."
"To ensure our community’s resilience requires us to confront the systemic and inequitable treatment that communities of color have experienced for generations, most visibly and tragically in the name of public safety," Cronk said. "The recent deaths of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer and our own officer-involved shooting death of Mr. Michael Ramos have amplified the call for justice in our community in ways we cannot ignore. The City has started down the path toward ending this injustice but we have further to go and we must stay the course to redefine public safety in Austin."
Councilmember Kathie Tovo said on Monday she is open for more cuts to the APD if that's what the community wants.
"Well, I'm very open to the conversation about additional efficiencies that could be realized, additional cuts that could be realized," said Tovo.
On Monday, City Councilmember Greg Casar released the following statement regarding the proposed budget:
"The City Manager’s initial budget proposal takes a small step in the direction of reducing funding for police patrol and increasing funding for more comprehensive forms of community safety. But, it is far from enough.
The City’s initial proposal removes 100 police patrol positions from the budget, and $8.1 million has been allocated away from the police department and toward community priorities that will make us more safe and more just. Compared to recent history, this is a large amount. Two years in a row, I have proposed votes to reduce police patrol by a fraction of this amount, and both proposals have failed. The reallocation of 100 police positions toward community solutions for safety is only possible because the Movement for Black Lives has changed the political reality of our time. However, the City’s response must be stronger.
I stand alongside the calls from local organizations and everyday activists demanding a $100 million reinvestment into our community’s safety from APD’s existing budget this year. I am committed to working towards that goal throughout this and all future budget processes. We must fix our family violence shelter shortage. We must have behavioral health professionals respond to mental health crises, rather than just police. We must invest in violence prevention, housing, and care. We must do better, and I will be working with the community to change this budget proposal."
Monday evening, Mayor Steve Adler said he appreciates Cronk's work on the proposed budget, but he is not ready to sign off on it yet.
"We need greater assurance that we're leveraging this moment to create transformational change," Adler said.
He added that "truly reimagining policing will require us to first reimagine budgeting" and that this budget must be the start "of undoing generations of institutional discrimination in all we do."
Other spending proposals include:
- $60.9 million to strengthen the City’s commitment to end homelessness in Austin through housing displacement prevention, crisis mitigation and re-empowerment efforts.
- Additional $3.5 million in Economic Injury Bridge Loans to small businesses through the Family Business Loan Program.
- $735,000 to enhance the City’s open-data portal, increasing transparency for Austin residents.
- $1.5 million for improvements to the Asian American Resource Center, Carver Museum and Mexican American Cultural Center.
- $423,000 and six new positions to fully implement the city-wide curbside organic materials collection program.
- $14.7 million for sidewalk improvements and $2.3 million for pedestrian safety including hybrid beacons, audible crosswalk indicators and more visible signs and markings.
- $5.1 million for crisis response and victim services.
Impact on taxpayers:
- The proposed property tax rate is $0.4377 cents per $100 of taxable value, a slight reduction from the current rate of $0.4386. The rate is 3.5% above the effective Operations and Maintenance rate – the lowest such increase since fiscal year 2004-05.
- A typical tax and rate payer would pay an additional 0.3% for tax, rates and fees combined – equivalent to $12.53 per year or $1.04 per month. This includes a bill reduction for the typical Austin Energy customer, a freeze in Austin Water rates and an increase in Austin Resource Recovery charges to pay for the city-wide implementation of curbside organic materials collection.
Because of the pandemic, the City's aviation department, which covers Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and the Austin Convention Center will have their budgets cut by 18% and 30%, respectively. Expansions planned for both entities are on hold indefinitely.
Councilmembers will take feedback on the proposed budget at the end of the month before they vote and make a final decision in mid-August.
For more information about the City's budget development process, go to austintexas.gov/budget.
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