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Austin councilmembers approve budget amendment to include $20 minimum wage

The previously proposed budget included a minimum wage increase from $15 to $18.

AUSTIN, Texas β€” Austin City Council members approved increasing the City of Austin minimum wage to $20 per hour.

A budget amendment form for the 2022-23 fiscal year sponsored by District 2 Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes proposed raising the City's minimum wage to $20 in the fiscal year 2023. That applies to all City employees in addition to any workers employed through contracts with the City. It excludes employees in the summer youth program. 

The amendment was approved Thursday along with the budget for the fiscal year 2022-23.

The amendment form states that the city manager "shall provide a competitive labor contract to all sworn staff," meaning City staff such as police officers and firefighters.

The amendment comes after council members in June approved a resolution calling for the minimum wage to be raised to $22.The resolution, sponsored by Fuentes, stated that if the $22 minimum was unfeasible, then whatever increase the budget would allow should be implemented. 

The previous City of Austin budget draft raised the minimum wage from $15 to $18 an hour, marking a 20% increase. The proposed budget also includes a one-time $1,500 retention stipend for all civilian and sworn City employees. However, Fuentes indicated it's not enough. 

"While that is a record increase, it’s simply not enough to meet the crisis that we are in. If we want the City to provide reliable services, we need to raise the living wage to at least $20 an hour," Fuentes said in a media release. 

According to the amendment form proposing the $22 minimum, funds for the raises would be between $5.5 million to $10.7 million from the General Fund and $2.8 million to $3.8 million from the Enterprise Funds. That would be an ongoing expense. 

The city manager, per the amendment, is also directed to develop a plan each year to reach a minimum wage of $22, the amount from the June resolution. After the $22 minimum is reached, the average of the annual increases in the Consumer Price Index in Texas will be used to increase the rate each year.

Councilmember Fuentes was joined by other councilmembers along with Austin AFSCME and other local organizations on Aug. 17 for a rally in support of the wage increase.

Several groups pushed to get an increase for City employees. 

"It's a great minimum wage for now because it's so much better than what was before, and it will make a huge difference to families," Michael Floyd said with Central Texas Interfaith.

AFSCME Local 1624 is a workers union representing about 2,700 City of Austin employees. Carol Guthrie, a business manager with the organization, said although they don't consider $20 per hour a living wage, they're happy about what this will do for families.

"It's good recruitment, retention move forward and we know it's just the beginning, but it's a great start. It's a meaningful start. It will make a difference in what they take home," Guthrie said. 

Both groups said the fight for a living wage is far from over. Next year they will work with the council to get more money for City employees.

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