The Austin City Council adopted a $5 billion budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
The budget includes a range of investments and directions that will be applied to rental assistance, fire and EMS stations, police cadet academies and more.
With the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, City Manager Spencer Cronk said the budget puts the city in a strong position to recruit and retain staff.
“It does this while reducing the City’s portion of the annual property tax bill for the typical homeowner and investing in public safety, disaster response, and actions to address climate change,” Cronk said.
The general fund budget is $1.3 billion with almost two-thirds of it allocated to public safety and the remaining funds will go toward court services, animal services, family health services, and management of libraries and parks.
A few big ticket items in the budget include:
- $73 million in planned capital spending to build and repair city sidewalks.
- $79 million for homelessness prevention, crisis response, housing stabilization, and public space management–including $4.8 million to clean up homeless encampments.
- $79 million investment in affordable housing to meet goals set by the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.
With Austin’s status as the live music capital of the world, there are some investments geared toward that like $27 million for cultural arts, historic preservation and live music as well as a $2.5 million investment in the Iconic Venue Fund, which helps preserve places of cultural significance.
After two days of deliberations, council also made some amendments in light of recent events such as lifeguard shortages and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade. Their additions include:
- $7 million General Fund increase to raise the City’s minimum wage beyond the City Manager’s proposal of $18 per hour, to $20 per hour.
- $17.8 million in capital funding to complete construction of the Goodnight Ranch Fire/EMS station in southeast Austin.
- An additional $3 million added to the $5 million proposed by the City Manager to help prevent displacement and homelessness as rents rise.
- An increase in the number of full-time lifeguards to 13 to keep the City’s pools open and safe.
- $1.2 million to expand an EMS program providing whole blood transfusions to patients before they reach the hospital.
- Option to run additional police academies customized for candidates with prior law enforcement experience.
- $350,000 to provide education and services focused on sexual and reproductive health and wellness, and contraception.
As for the impact this will have on taxpayers, the city noted rates and fees, including electricity, trash service and the transportation user fee will rise for typical ratepayers. This is in response to escalating operations costs and increasing service demands brought by population growth.
The typical taxpayer can expect a nearly 4% increase—equivalent to an additional $14.14 per month.
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Austin has added 24-hour security to the city-owned Pecan Gardens property, which will be converted into supportive housing for people exiting homelessness, after the former hotel was found with months of damage and vandalism May 5.
The building, which was broken into and stripped of copper and had people illegally sleeping inside of it, has been secured, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said in a Friday press conference. Kelly said the city confirmed a measure to implement 24-hour security, including updates every 60 days until the property opens up as supportive housing.
"We cannot let this happen to any vacant city-owned property ever again," Kelly said. "This blatant act of disregard and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our community."
The city bought the former hotel in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to renovate the property into a 78-unit supportive housing property. Those 55 or older that are experiencing chronic homelessness can qualify to live at the site once it is completed in late 2022-early 2023.
While the council was set to discuss a $4 million deal with Family Eldercare to begin converting the property Thursday, Kelly pulled the item for a later executive session due to security concerns. But the council did approve an item to authorize city leaders to begin negotiating other renovation contracts.
"I want to thank my colleagues for pumping the brakes on this contract and realizing that we owe the community not only an apology, but reassurance that the protection of the assets the city owns is vital to the success of achieving our intended goals," Kelly said.
When the building was found vandalized May 5, Kelly, who presides over the district containing the property, said damage included:
- Damage spanning all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Destroyed washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring.
- People sleeping at the hotel without permission.
On Tuesday, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray apologized and said there was no security due to a delay in processing the request.
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Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray has apologized after vandals broke into a city-owned hotel in the process of being converted into a homeless hotel.
The break-in was discovered on May 5 at the northwest Candlewood Suites, 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., which had been sitting vacant and unrenovated with no security protocol at the time. The incident came to light after Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents the area, tweeted photos of the damage to the interior.
What she said about the damages:
- Damage spans all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring was destroyed.
- Kelly said she learned of people sleeping at the hotel without permission.
Here are the photos of the inside of the Candlewood Suites that I shared during my press conference at 3pm today.
I want to encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/2bVBoA6Vba
— Mackenzie Kelly (@mkelly007) May 12, 2022
A memo from the city said security had yet to be initiated due to a delay in processing the request.
The memo also said it introduced security protocols after the incident, which will now be on patrol “day and night.”
“The intent had been to have security on site previous to this event,” Gray said. “It had been requested, and there was a delay in the request, so it had not been initiated. We acknowledge that as a failure and apologize.”
The city bought the hotel—now called Pecan Gardens—in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to convert it into 80 supportive housing units as part of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link initiative.
The city’s Homeless Strategy Division expects occupants—individuals exiting long-term homelessness—to move in later this year or early next year.
On Thursday, City Council is poised to approve a contract with Family Eldercare, allowing them to begin renovations.