AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County’s EMS Association is voicing opposition to a November ballot item that would increase Austin Police Department staffing, saying it would hurt funding for EMS and other city services.
Proposition A would add a few hundred additional officers to APD and expand on community policing initiatives. If the measure is approved by voters, it could cost between $271.5 million and $598.8 million over the next five years.
“Austin EMS Association fears that Prop A will create an irreversible escalation of police costs that will cannibalize Austin’s EMS and other city services for many years to come,” said Selena Xie, president of the EMS Association, in a statement Thursday. “We are asking Austin voters to look past the divisive politics that have intensified the conversation around Prop A and simply consider its implications for sound fiscal management of our City.”
In a Friday interview with KXAN, Xie said, “we understand what it is like to be short staffed and not even get allocation for the resources we need.”
“By the numbers we are more short staffed than any other public safety agency,” she continued.
The EMS Association joins the Austin Firefighters Association and the local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees in opposing the measure. AFSCME represents civilian employees of the city and county, including 911 call-takers, public health workers, park rangers and utility workers.
Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks argued in a statement APD can hire 300 police officers using its current budget without Prop A. “Prop A is a poorly written law and will shift at least $75 million from the Fire and EMS budgets, as well as other essential City services,” Nicks’ statement said, in part.
In August, Austin City Council approved the budget for FY 2021-22, signing off on a record-high $442 million budget for APD.