Providing homeless services a major theme in Austin’s proposed budget

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk released his proposed budget for next year to City Council with a “historic commitment” to ending homelessness in Austin.

Cronk told other city leaders ending homelessness was a “moral imperative.”

Citywide spending on homelessness-related services, support, and facilities would increase to nearly $63 million — $17 million more than in the current year.

The breakdown includes $16.3 million for current and future emergency shelters, $15.4 million for permanent housing, and $13.3 million for homeowners’ and renters’ assistance programs.

To help fund this increase, Cronk is again proposing an increase in property tax revenue by 8 percent.

It’s the last year the city can increase tax revenue by this much. State-imposed 3.5% revenue caps will take effect for FY 2020-2021.

City leaders are acutely aware of this. For example, $18 million of the proposed money for homelessness programs are one-time allocations.

“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,” Cronk said. “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.”

The presentation was held at Lifeworks, a nonprofit provider in the fight against youth homelessness.

More city leaders are beginning to support city taxpayers taking on a larger role to pay for resources for Austin’s many homeless people.

In a previous interview with KXAN News, Mayor Steve Adler said he supported finding more resources to help pay for rent, deposits, and a “risk fund” to help with damages; similar to what he supported in a citywide effort to house homeless Veterans.

The proposed budget also includes 30 new Austin police officers, and an extra $1 million to help pay for sexual assault kit processing.

The final version of next year’s budget would be approved by City Council in September.

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