AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s quickly become expensive to live in Austin.
Nobody knows this better than Barton Springs lifeguard Scott Cobb, who’s been working for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for the last 11 years.
This summer, the city’s pools are packed with less than half — 15 of 34 pools — of them open due to a lack of lifeguards.
“They’re struggling and you see that in all the vacancies that exist right now in the City of Austin,” Cobb said.
According to the City of Austin, 18% of its budgeted positions are open.
To combat this crisis, District 2 City Councilwoman Vanessa Fuentes has put forth a proposal to raise the minimum wage for city employees from $15 to $22 an hour.
“We have to remain competitive and ensure that we’re attracting and retaining talented employees,” she said.
City Manager Spencer Cronk estimates that this increase could cost the city between $18.2 and $22.8 million.
“There has to be a balance somewhere,” District 6 City Councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly said. “There will be programs that are cut as a result of this resolution.”
Kelly also pointed out that the city is limited by a 3.5% cap on the property tax revenue increase, imposed by state law.
“Cuts could be in the form of not funding as many homelessness initiatives,” she said, “It could also be in the form of not providing as many hours at the public library.”
For full-time employees, a $22 hourly wage would equal out to an annual salary of just over $45,000.
For city workers such as Cobb, this would provide a big benefit.
“Raising the wage is going to put gas in their tanks to get them to work and it’s going to help keep a roof over their head,” he concluded.
If this proposed pay raise is passed by the Austin City Council during its meeting on Thursday, the $7 hourly rate increase could go into effect in 2023, pending approval of the city’s fiscal budget.