By Bill Oakey – August 11, 2016
Unless Austinites come together quickly and petition the City Council, the new budget will hit us with the biggest round of property tax, utility and monthly fee increases in several years. The entire concept of affordability has been tossed to the wind by a City Manager and staff that appear to be isolated from the realities facing us. The lofty language in the budget crows about a booming local economy. But it doesn’t mention what’s happening to you and your neighbors – being taxed out of your homes, runaway rent increases, and stagnant wages.
This Petition Needs To Move Quickly. You Can Print It and Distribute It To Your Friends. Or Just Share This Blog Link By Email And Social Media
Affordability Petition to the Austin City Council – August 2016
We call upon the Austin City Council to reject the City Manager’s FIscal Year 2017 Budget recommendation. We respectfully ask you to recognize that affordability is the number one civic issue, and to protect the interests of taxpayers by taking the following actions:
1. Make responsible adjustments to the Budget to reduce the effective tax rate increase from 8% to 4% or less, in line with most City Budgets adopted since 2011. Delay or phase in new programs. purchases and staff positions, rather than sacrificing critical community needs. (Annual increases of 8% would cause property taxes to double in 9 years – even sooner if tax appraisals go up).
2. Place all utility charge and utility bill add-on fee increases on hold. Ask the City Manager to report back to the City Council with a much more affordable fee schedule. (The dollar impact of the utility and fee increases is 2.4 times higher than the property tax increase for a typical resident).
3. Provide senior citizen discounts for all utility bill add-on fees. This is necessary since these fees are growing faster than property taxes.
4. Establish a sliding scale for City employee pay raises. Consider a flat dollar amount or a percentage with a dollar cap. Provide living wages for low-income workers. (2.5% raises over 10 years would increase a $150,000 salary by $37,329. But a $30,000 salary would only increase by $7,466. This would promote economic segregation).
5. Allocate equal City resources to retaining existing Austin residents as for recruiting new businesses. Please consider the AustinAffordability.com ”Homeowner Retention Initiative” as a starting point, along with policies and practices to help renters.
6. Establish a formal timeline to rapidly implement the Mayor’s “Music & Creative Ecosystem Stabilization Recommendations.” We need to protect Austin’s creative Industries and our quality of life.
7. Compile a comprehensive list of all City plans, determine estimated costs for each plan, along with a grand total cost for all of the plans. Publish the list on the City’s website. Seek public input to prioritize the plans and develop an affordable timeline for implementing them.
8. Make an official declaration of 2017 as “The Year of Affordability,” and pursue it as vigorously as you did the 2016 declaration for “The Year of Mobility.”
For more details on how the FY 2017 Budget shuns affordability, read this posting.
How to Get the Petition to the City Council
The fastest way is to use this single-click link to email all of them at once. Just tell them you support the AustinAffordability.com Affordability Petition. Or copy and paste it into your email. If you want to distribute printed copies, those can be mailed to: Austin City Council, P.O Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767.
Come to the Public Hearings Next Thursday, the 18th
Please invite your friends and come to speak at the City Budget and Tax Rate public hearings. These will be held at 4:00 on Thursday August 18 at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street. You can sign up to speak on Item # 82 and Item # 84 at the kiosks in the City Hall lobby beginning next Monday, August 15th.
I haven’t looked at these numbers in about a year but compared to San Antonio, Austin is ridiculously expensive At a high level, San Antonio has a population of 1.2 million people and Austin has 800 thousand (30% less). When I looked, the budget for San Antonio was 2.2 Billion $ and Austin was 3.2 B$ (50% more). At a town hall meeting during the election debate between Kathy Tovo and Chris Riley, I asked Tovo to explain the high ATX budget v. SA and got that “deer in the headlights” look. Some people I’ve discussed this with say that it’s Austin’s utility but I think SA has a utility too. Even if it is a $1B utility budget, why would ATX have the same budget as SA with 30% less people??
Very good question!
Gray Panthers and Coalition for Shared Governance posted support on FB a short while ago – along with reminders: Failure to apply promised ‘transparency’ on issues raised PRIOR to 10-1: “Is the City of Austin Employees’ Retirement Fund Broke?” and as well’s many UNADDRESSED ISSUES AND QUESTIONS RAISED SINCE 10-1 ENACTMENT – Seven (7) pages under ‘Documentation’ – http://www.lovenorthaustin.com/blog/gray-panthers-affordability-starts-with-accountablity .