AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, the City of Austin will adopt its 2022-23 budget and set a tax rate after weeks of discussion and workshopping. Starting Wednesday, city council members will approve or amend the budget brought to them earlier this year by Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk.

Fiscal Year 2022-23 starts on Oct. 1, which is when the new budget will go into effect. Here’s what you need to know.

How much will it cost you?

The City of Austin said the proposed budget will result in Austin homeowners paying an average of $100 less in the city’s portion of their annual property tax bill compared to last year. Meanwhile, the city’s rates and fees for services like electricity and transportation are expected to go up.

“When changes to property taxes, rates and fees are combined, a typical Austin tax- and ratepayer would see a year-over-year increase of 2.7% — equivalent to an additional $10.07 per month or just over $120 per year, a release from the city said.

City staffing, minimum wage

While Austin City Council members voted to raise the minimum wage for its employees to $22 per hour, the city manager’s preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year lists an $18 minimum wage with a gradual increase. There’s a chance the city could split the difference.

During a budget work meeting last week, council learned how much it would cost to pay its employees more. To hit a minimum wage of $18 per hour, it’s going to cost the city roughly $3.7 million, which is already built into the base budget, staff said. The breakdown to increase that hourly pay was laid out in a staff presentation below:

Living wage cost
(Courtesy: City of Austin Human Resources Department)

Council members talked about splitting the difference at $20 an hour. It is likely Council member Vanessa Fuentes will bring forward the amendment, as she has been vocal about the topic. You can read more about the discussion in KXAN’s previous coverage.

Public safety

Cronk said the largest portion of the City’s General Fund, which covers operational costs and maintains current service levels, could be allocated to public safety operations at $1.1 billion.

More than 60% of the operational budget, $785 million, will go to public safety, which includes fire, police and EMS.

Last year, the city approved a record-high budget for the police department at $442 million. That included funding for two cadet classes. In order to be in compliance with Texas state law, the city cannot cut funding to the police department year-over-year.

According to the proposed budget, the city’s largest proposed personnel change could be the restructuring of the police department’s forensic science program into a stand-alone department. Roughly 90 people will be transferred from the PD to the department, documents show.

“The City is re-creating the Forensic Science Department in FY 2022-23 as it is now possible to fulfill the original Reimagine Public Safety Taskforce recommendation to create this Department while staying in compliance with the provisions of Texas HB 1900,” the proposed budget said.

The proposed budget also includes a 4% wage increase for civilian staff, which would include non-sworn public safety employees like dispatchers and 911 call-takers. In addition, Cronk announced a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 for all staff members who have been with the City for at least one year. That includes temporary and sworn staff members.

Meanwhile, Fuentes said the city manager did not include funding this year for the Goodnight Ranch fire and EMS station, which council approved in 2018 but has not yet identified funding for. Fuentes said she would put forward an amendment this week that allocates money to the station’s completion.

You can read more about the public safety proposal in KXAN’s previous coverage.

Housing affordability

A big chunk of money, $79 million, could go towards investments in affordable housing to meet the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint. That was a plan put forward by council in 2017 which outlined what the next 10 years would look like in terms of affordable housing.

The city council also recently voted to direct the city manager and staff to craft an affordable housing bond proposition for the November ballot worth $350 million. Council member Mackenzie Kelly of District 6 was the only member that voted against the resolution. Alison Alter abstained.