Austin (KXAN) — On Tuesday, Austin City Council is taking a look at the revised $4.2 billion budget for the city’s 2019-2020 fiscal year. The actual adoption of the budget could take between one and three days, the city says.
Among the most recent amendments to the budget are items focusing on improving mental health in the community. That includes boosting funding to EMS, Austin Police’s call center training, and Downtown Community Court’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT).
The city also recommends adding six community health paramedics and one captain to address mental health calls.
“You know, we see in society today — in part of the community of people that are experiencing homelessness in our city but not limited to that –mental health challenges, for too long it’s something that had great stigma so people didn’t really talk about it, we didn’t really provide support for that but in today’s world I think it’s being talked about more and more,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN.
The amendments also recommend adding two positions to the Parks and Recreation Department to expand programs for those with learning disabilities and to boost funding to increase wages for lifeguards to $16 per hour.
The budget already included a nearly 150-thousand dollars to increase crisis intervention team stipends for Austin Police. It also will add 30 new police officers, 32 new firefighters, and 12 paramedics.
The city says this budget will raise more total property taxes than last year’s budget by $60,587,697 or 9%. Of that amount, $14,689,327 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year. Those amounts are based on the City’s proposed fiscal year 2019- 2020 tax rate of 43.86 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The City’s fiscal year 2018-19 tax rate (the current tax rate) is 44.03 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
It’s important to note that until the budget and tax rates are approved, the amounts listed in this article may be subject to change based on the council’s decision.
High priority areas for the council in this budget include addressing homelessness and housing.
The budget notes that this fiscal year “represents a historic leap forward in the City’s response to our homelessness crisis” with planned spending in that area totaling $62.7 million. The city notes this is $17 million more than last year.
The city notes that $18.2 million of that $62.7 million will be one-time expenditures.
City staff notes that the general fund budget including amendments proposed by staff is $2.5 million higher than the budget initially proposed, the projected future deficits have been “slightly reduced as a result of a portion of this increase being used for one-time costs.”
“In light of the lower property tax revenue cap of 3.5% next year, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking into account the long‐term financial consequences of other budget amendments that you might consider,” Ed Van Eenoo, Deputy Chief Financial Officer told the council in a city memo.
He noted that delaying when a program starts can lower costs in the first year, but would make the full-year program costs in subsequent years “exacerbate future projected budget gaps” unless there is some source of offsetting revenue.