City staff will now bring forward an official tax rate proposal for the council to vote on by Aug. 7. The proposal will include an 8.75-cent property tax increase.
The city and CapMetro also approved creating a shared governing board for the project, with officials from both entities overseeing the massive transit upgrade.
"This is an exciting day to be taking a step forward," Mayor Steve Adler said. "This is both a scary time filled with uncertainties, and a time of hope as we are on the verge of real transformative change … We need to move forward to be the Austin of our aspirations, and our dreams."
The influence of the pandemic
The reduced ask came as a sharp turnaround for Project Connect—the city gave the nod to the full $10 billion plan as recently as late June. The plan approved today will be just over $7 billion, with 45% coming from the federal government and most of the rest from the planned November vote.
However, the property tax increase approved by CapMetro and the council was actually slightly higher than the reduced proposal—an 8.5-cent property tax increase—brought forward last week. The 0.25-cent increase will allow Project Connect to triple the amount of funding to help with housing displacement to $300 million.
For and against
Of the 84 people who signed up to comment on Project Connect, 68 registered in favor of the plan, with five registering against it.
The speakers who opposed the proposal called parts of Project Connect, such as the construction of an underground rail tunnel through downtown, "sketchy," poorly planned and a "fairy tale" that could easily go over budget.
"We're in the middle of a pandemic, and we don't have funds to do this sort of thing," said Caroline Reynolds, who lives near downtown and said she is drawing on her experience as an engineer.
Other residents called on the council and CapMetro to delay putting the issue on the ballot to 2022 and impressed upon the officials the possibility of the it failing during a year with such major financial crises going on.
Many spoke in support of the project, advocating for the need to work on improving public transit in the city sooner rather than later.
"I urge you all to go big on this project and support it moving forward," said Bay Scoggin, the director at Texas Public Interest Research Group.
Danielle Skidmore, a civil engineer and former candidate for City Council District 9, in Central Austin, also spoke in support of Project Connect.
"We will look back at 2020, and recognize it is the right time to begin this investment," Skidmore said. "Project Connect will define Austin in the 21st century."
Two more votes are required before the proposal can be put on the November ballot, the second of which will happen during the Aug. 12-14 City Council budget meetings.
This article was updated after the vote.
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Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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You’ll have to leave city limits if you’re looking for a proper ranch property like 417 Acres Shipp Lake Ranch, aptly named for its acreage. The property comes built out with three farmhouses, one of which has bedrooms and two bathrooms and two of which have two bedrooms and one bathroom. The nearly untouched property, which surrounds the 100-plus-acre Shipp Lake, has remained in the same family since the early 1900s and gives you picturesque views for the making of a dream home. In fact, the previous owners ran a water ski camp on the property.
Sitting waterside on Lake Austin, this home gives you the unique opportunity to own a piece of the lush Hill Country with views of Mount Bonnell. The 2,750-square foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom house allows you to integrate indoor and outdoor life with large windows opening to an outdoor living area. The crown jewel is the .76-acre parcel of land that tapers off to your own lakeside resort, featuring an covered outdoor kitchen, fire pit, stone boat house to store your water sports supplies and veranda sitting at the mouth of the water, perfect for an entertainer.
Got dreams of becoming a real Texas rancher? 7814 Brown Cemetery Rd. is the perfect place to start with 40 rolling acres of land and its very own swimming hole. Just east of Austin in Manor, the modest-on-the-outside home clocks at 4,412 square feet with five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms, but there are an additional two living structures on the property. The horseshoe-shaped pond sits in the heart of the property and comes equipped with a water slide, diving board and a fishing dock.