UPDATE: City Manager proposes budget ‘laser focused’ on community priorities


Source: City of Austin

Spencer Cronk sets out mission to build on successes while bracing for State’s revenue cap

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk today, Aug. 5, 2019, presented his proposed Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Budget to City Council.

At an event at LifeWorks’ Youth and Family Resource Center in East Austin, Cronk presented the highlights and key themes of his proposals for City tax and spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2019.

  • Proposed Budget Snapshot [LINK]

  • Proposed Budget Addressing Homelessness [LINK]

  • Proposed Budget Taxpayer Impact Assessment [LINK]

  • Proposed Budget Full Document [LINK]

  • Proposed Budget Speech [LINK]

Proposals to prepare for the State’s recently adopted 3.5% revenue cap and to address housing and homelessness were all featured in Cronk’s speech, which was broadcast live and will be available to view again shortly at ATXN.TV.

“This year, our mission is to build on our successes while at the same time bracing the City’s budget against the future impacts of the State’s decision to lower the cap on local property tax revenue growth,” said Cronk. “Although the daunting challenges posed by the revenue cap are real, we can mitigate much of the damage through careful financial management and by remaining laser focused on our highest community priorities while continuing to create further operational efficiencies.”

Doing these things would afford us time to seek new revenue sources and “to have the difficult conversations as a community about where services can be reduced or possibly cut,” he added.

The City Manager announced several initiatives intended to help develop a path to long-term fiscal sustainability in the era of the 3.5% cap. For Fiscal Year 2019-2020 he proposed setting the tax rate at the rollback threshold to “better position the City to contend with the financial challenges ahead”.

He also proposed a “historic commitment” to achieving the “moral imperative” of ending homelessness in Austin. Citywide spending on homelessness-related services, support, and facilities would increase to nearly $63 million — $17 million more than in the current year.

Spending proposals include:

  • Historic $62.7 million budget in support of ending homelessness in Austin

  • 30 police officers for year 2 implementation of the Police Department staffing plan

  • $42 million of planned spending from the 2018 affordable housing bond

  • Hotel Occupancy Tax spending of $12.8 million in support of cultural arts and another $11.9 million spent in support of historic preservation

  • $12.8 million for the Parks and Recreation Department’s Aquatics program, including $4.1 million for ongoing maintenance and $1.8 for capital improvements

  • Final phase of the Curbside Compost Collection Program rollout with a total operating budget of $4.5 million

  • $10.8 million for sidewalk improvements.

This is the second year in which the proposed budget was organized by outcome area, and not strictly by City department, to reflect the priorities of the Austin community, using Council’s adopted Strategic Direction 2023 as a guide. The outcomes are Culture & Lifelong Learning, Economic Opportunity & Affordability, Government That Works for All, Health & Environment, Mobility, Safety.

The City Council has budget work sessions scheduled on Aug. 20, Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. Final budget adoption is scheduled for September 10.

Today’s event, the culmination of several months of stakeholder engagement, was hosted by LifeWorks, which provides affordable housing facilities for youth and young families with the help of City investment.

“The City of Austin is committed to ending youth homelessness by supporting the programs and services LifeWorks provides to youth and young families who need it most,” Susan McDowell, LifeWorks CEO, said. “Our work is made possible by an increasingly collaborative effort on behalf of many City agencies and departments.”

Budget in Brief

  • This year’s proposed budget of $4.2 billion maintains high‐quality services while making targeted, high‐value investments in core programs and City infrastructure.

  • Citywide expenditures for FY 2019‐20 are 3.8% higher than the prior year. The FY 2019‐20 General Fund proposed budget is $1.1 billion, which supports public safety services as well as our parks, libraries, neighborhood health centers, and animal shelter.

  • The Capital Budget includes $1.2 billion in planned spending.

  • The proposed property tax rate is $0.4386 cents per $100 of taxable value, a slight reduction from the current rate of $0.4403. The tax rate is set at the rollback threshold – 8% above the effective Operations and Maintenance rate.

  • No net change to enterprise base rates (including Austin Water, Austin Energy, and Austin Resource Recovery rates).

  • Increase of 2.5% to the typical property tax bill – equivalent to $8.32 per month.