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.
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An Austin-based firm that’s established itself as one of the top Bitcoin miners in North America is set to go public.
On Thursday, the company, known as Core Scientific Inc., announced it’s now trading on Nasdaq as $CORZ. The stock opened at $9.74 per share then peaked at $10.48. The company was assigned a $414 million market cap.
"As one of the largest publicly-traded blockchain infrastructure providers and digital asset miners in North America, we are focused on growing our capacity, defending and securing the blockchain ecosystem and building long-term shareholder value," CEO Mike Levitt said.
As reported by Yahoo News, investors approved a plan for a public debut through a $4.3 billion merger with special purpose acquisition company Power & Digital Infrastructure Acquisition Corp. The deal arrives as Austin sees its crypto scene soar, with increased activity in the NFT economy and groups pooling their money together through DAOs.
Core Scientific was established in 2017 and relocated its headquarters from Seattle to Austin last year. It has a site in Downtown Austin on 106 E. 6th St. and data centers in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and North Dakota. More than 100 full-time employees are in the U.S., but it's unclear how many are in Austin.
Now, they say they are the biggest Bitcoin miners based on processing power, with claims that the combined mining capacity on the Bitcoin network exceeds that of competitors. And SEC filings from earlier this month show it's in the process of acquiring Blockcap, Inc., which moved to Austin last year.
The company describes itself as a leader in high-performance, carbon-neutral blockchain infrastructure in an industry that catches flak for its energy use.
Aside from mining, the company provides internet hosting services for other large-scale miners. In fact, it derives about half its revenue by helping big customers mine, a quality seen in what’s often referred to as an “institutional-grade” miner.
Looking ahead, Core Scientific seems optimistic about the year ahead even as Bitcoin falls from its all-time high.
“We’ve worked hard to lay the groundwork that will enable us to achieve our 2022 projections,” Levitt told Yahoo News. “Our objective is to be the best. Being the best means doing all that we can for our business, the industry in which we participate and for the Bitcoin network.”
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Watch some Cricket
When: 5:30-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: The Crossover, 1717 Scottsdale Drive
What: Looking for a new sport to obsess over? Attend one of Sports Movement’s indoor cricket matches.
Le Garage Sale
When: 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.
What: Find over 100+ boutiques, brands and designers at Le Garage sale. Shop leisurewear, accessories, menswear, children’s apparel, home decor and more. Tickets start at $10.
See a movie at the drive-in
When: 6:25-8:45 p.m., 9:15-10:50 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Globe Drive-In Theater, 8017 Cele Rd.
What: This weekend you can see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at 6:25 p.m. or you can see The Cabin in the Woods at 9:15 p.m. at the drive-in. Tickets cost $16 per car.
Museum of Ice Cream
When: 11:30 a.m Saturday and Sunday
Where: Museum of Ice Cream, 11410 Century Oaks Ter.
What: The Museum of Ice Cream is featuring 12 never-before-seen instillations celebrating the enjoyment of ice cream. View tickets here.
The Austin Flea
When: 12 p.m. Sunday
Where: Meanwhile Brewing, 3901 Promontory Point Dr.
What: Find handmade items, vintage wares, food and drink and more at The Austin Flea at Meanwhile Brewing. Vendors are handpicked for each show to guarantee a great selection of items to shop for.