Faced with historic economic and health crises that left the city's main revenue streams battered and a citizenry demanding change, budget writers on Monday proposed a $4.2 billion budget for the city of Austin for the 2020-21 fiscal year that includes $11.3 million in cuts to police services, the lowest property tax hike in 15 years, and provisions to keep the city's emergency reserves healthy.
It also proposes cutting funding for cultural arts, historic preservation, and live music by 33% to make up for a deep deficit in hotel tax revenues and increasing some fees.
While officials had imagined potentially raising property taxes by as much as 8%, the hike was kept to 3.5%—the lowest hike since the 2004-05 fiscal year, City Manager Spencer Cronk told the Austin City Council during the first public presentation of the proposal.
"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," Cronk said. "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."
City leaders have grappled with a projected budget shortfall of nearly $200 million due to the coronavirus, which devastated revenue streams across travel and tourism dollars, sales taxes, earned wages and more.
"It is nearly impossible to overstate the magnitude of the challenge that COVID-19 has presented," Cronk said.
The cuts to the police department include eliminating 100 sworn officer positions and delaying a new cadet class.
While the proposed police cuts fall short of demands for $100 million in funds to be diverted from the Austin Police Department, city leaders promised it would be the first of many steps to overhaul the way the APD does business, in the wake of protests after the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos in Austin, both at the hands of officers. Council members are scheduled to make their final vote on the budget on Aug. 12, after council workshops and public input sessions.
The $11.3M would be redirected to several areas, including:
- $3 million to support and grow the work of the Office of Police Oversight and other auditing and rewriting of the department's general orders.
- $2.7M toward increased non-police mental health first response.
- $900k on cultural and sensitivity training as well as drug overdose treatment on-site.
- $1M to the Housing Trust Fund.
Last year, the Austin City Council approved a $4.2 billion budget for the city. Some 67% of the general fund was for public safety, which includes police, fire and EMS. The Austin Police Department accounted for $440 million.
The first budget input meeting is scheduled for July 23.
- Austin Police Department overhaul draws public testimony - austonia ›
- List of proposed changes to Austin Police Department after protests ... ›
- Garza will vote 'no' on budget unless funds are moved away from ... ›
- Austin activists see moment to strike on defunding APD - austonia ›
- Voting on the funding of the Austin police department - austonia ›
- Sweeping changes to budget, policy for Austin police - austonia ›
- Austin City Council OKs another third-party investigation of APD - austonia ›
Project Connect is starting to take shape, Capitol Metro announced, and officially beginning with the scoping phase that includes an environmental report set to go on from now to 2022.
The COVID-19 therapeutic infusion center in South Austin is expanding.
The pop-up center opened outside of the Montopolis CommUnity Care location on Jan. 6 with nine infusion chairs and monoclonal antibody treatments donated by area hospitals. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that the center will now offer 33 infusion chairs, thanks to additional support provided by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
- We Are Blood requests funding for convalescent plasma program ... ›
- Antibody tests show up in Austin, but not all are FDA approved ... ›
- Plasma may help COVID-19, Austin doctors say as they join national ... ›
- Austin opens COVID monoclonal antibodies infusion center - austonia ›