By Bill Oakey – December 14, 2017
The late-night vote to send the contract back to negotiations was unanimous. And unprecedented. It came after seven hours of heated public testimony from both sides in the debate. This is the first time a City Council has ever rejected a police contract. Here’s the bottom line…
We Have Until March 22 to Implore the City Council Not to Let the New Contract Double Our Property Taxes Every 9 Years!
This issue is also about improved public oversight of the police. But for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are struggling with the taxes we already pay, we face a very real danger. The police negotiators will continue to demand higher pay in exchange for the reforms in citizen oversight.
What Is Wrong With This Picture?
I ask everyone reading this to please grab a pen and write down eight critical words – How do they do it in other cities? Put that scrap of paper in your wallet or purse. Then, every time you meet a City Council member, pull out that note and read the critical question out loud – How do they do it in other cities? What’s wrong with the picture in the police contract discussions is this:
1. Austin already has the highest police salaries in the State of Texas.
2. Our standards for public oversight of police are among the lowest in the country.
What Were the Scariest Moments in Last Night’s Meeting?
Over and over again, I kept hearing the same line of talk. Look at these variations on a single theme, straight from the Council dais and from the lips of the speakers:
1. “If we add X number of officers over the next five years, how much money will be left in the General fund for other programs?”
2. “If these new benefits are kept in the contract, will we end up with more or less money to spend in the General Fund than we were able to spend this year?”
Every time I heard a question like that, I knew something scary that is fundamental for every taxpayer to know…
City Officials Are Assuming That Raising Property Taxes to the 8% Legal Maximum Is the New Normal!
When Council members asked, “Can we afford this in the police contract, or can we afford that,” here’s what they meant by “afford.” They wanted to know if the “leftover money” after the contract was paid would be enough to cover the other services that the City normally provides. Plus all the new spending items from goals that the Council has set. All of this assumes the same chilling fact. The City expects to hit the maximum allowed 8% property tax rate every year going forward. And if that happens, your City taxes will double every 9 years.
How Can We As Taxpayers Stop This Cost Spiral?
1. Email and call City Council members. Ask them to reduce the unaffordable pay raises in the police contract.
2. Ask them to establish more reasonable boundaries for the pay raises.
3. Ask them to communicate those boundaries to the police and the City negotiating staff BEFORE the negotiations even begin.
4. Above all, ask the City Council to let the negotiators know that bringing our police accountability standards up to the nationally accepted level DOES NOT require granting unaffordable pay raises!
5. Don’t ask the City Counci…Tell them…That there is no such thing as “leftover money” in the City Budget. They need to overhaul their thinking and adopt a whole new set of goals. Doubling our property taxes every 9 years MUST NOT be an option. Would everyone please pause and take a look at the subtitle of my blog at the top of this page. It says this…
Let’s Put the Public’s Ability to Pay Into Austin’s Planning Process
Every City Council member should ask themselves one little question before they tuck themselves into bed tonight…When was the last time period that most of their constituents got annual pay raises, year after year, equal to what they as taxpayers are giving to City employees? Then, let them drift peacefully off to sleep and have pleasant dreams.