By Bill Oakey – August 20, 2015
Many thanks to Council Aide, Michael Searle in Council Member Ellen Troxclair’s office. He provided me with a document that shows the current status of proposed cuts and additions to City Manager’s proposed City Budget. Today it is available online. You can read the details by clicking the link below:
There Is Good News and Bad News
One piece of good news not noted in the chart is that, according to an information request from Council Member Troxclair, there are no funds budgeted for special event fee waivers. If this position holds, it will be a major victory. It is long past time for the City to pay for special event services from sources other than local taxpayers.
The bad news is the bottom line. This current “budget concept menu” calls for $30.7 million in increases to the General Fund budget, with only $13.4 million in spending reductions. It should be noted, however, that several of the budget change suggestions from Council members have not been quantified yet by City staff. Those items are labeled, “TBD” – To Be Determined. So, in all fairness, the jury is still out on whether this current menu would offer pain relief to taxpayers or serious indigestion.
A Closer Look At Some Of the Highlights
- Item 2.13 – Council Member Troxclair recommends freeing up $9.7 million in Budget Stabilization Reserve funds. This would lead to taxpayer savings.
- Item 2.14 – Huge Kudos for Troxclair! This item would end three layers of utility subsidies for “economic development” (giveaways for corporate recruitment) to the tune of $11 million. This would lower our utility bills.
- Item 2.4 – Thanks to Mayor Steve Adler. Debt financing of select capital expenses would free up $12.9 million in reserve funds that could lead to tax savings.
- Item 2.3 – Thanks to Council Member Don Zimmerman. Implement a sliding scale for City employee pay raises. This would save a total of $7 million. Why should the fat-cats at the top of the scale get continuous big raises every year, while tens of thousands of Austinites struggle with stagnant wages?
- Item 2.2 – Thanks to Mayor Steve Adler. He offers an alternative plan for the tiered pay increases that would save $4.7 million.
- Item 2.23 – More thanks to Ellen Troxclair. This item calls for a staff pay increase structure that would save $6 million. We need to press the City Council to adopt either the Adler, Zimmerman or Troxclair plan!
- Item 3.3 – Thank you, Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo. Increase Development Services fee to 100% of cost of service. This would save us $1.4 million.
- Item 3.6 – Huge thanks to Council Member Sheri Gallo!. Increase Senior Homestead Flat Exemption to levels comparable to 2005 property valuations.
- Item 3.13 – Troxclair again! Freeze utility rates and fees to this year’s levels.
- Item 2.18 – Still more kudos to Troxclair. Limit additional police positions to 53. The staff’s ambitious increase in police is too much for one big jump in this year’s budget.
Here Is What You Can Do to Help!
This is our big chance to really make a difference in affordability. We need to let every City Council member know that we want meaningful reductions to the budget without being totally swallowed up by budget increases. In other words, tangible relief in taxes, utility rates and fees.
So, please take the time to email the Mayor and all Council members, using this one-click email link. Then, please send emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter postings to as many neighbors and friends as you have on your lists. If we all join together, we can score a nice victory in the new budget. Time is very short, so let’s get the action started now!