AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council on Thursday adopted a new $5 billion budget and tax rates for fiscal year 2022-23 which includes $79 million each for both the homelessness response and affordable housing.
The City said many investments were made with improving staff recruitment and retention in mind, so a $20 hourly living wage for city employees was approved as part of the budget.
“The budget adopted by Council today puts the City in a strong position to recruit and retain the people we need to sustain the high quality of services our residents have come to expect,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk in a news release. “It does this while reducing the City’s portion of the annual property tax bill for the typical homeowner and investing in public safety, disaster response and actions to address climate change. We look forward to implementing Council’s priorities in the coming fiscal year.”
The City said 62% of the $1.3 billion general fund is for public safety — the largest part of the general fund. The remaining money from that fund will go toward court, animal and family health services, as well as library and park management, among other items.
Another focus was funding the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the City said, so the area can be resilient to climate change and natural disasters. About $3.4 million will go toward improving disaster response and creating 17 new jobs to help with preparedness.
Here’s a breakdown of some key investments:
- $73 million in planned capital spending to build and repair city sidewalks
- $3.4 million and 17 new jobs to improve disaster response and community preparedness
- $27 million for cultural arts, historic preservation and live music, funded by Hotel Occupancy Taxes
- $79 million for homelessness prevention, crisis response, housing stabilization, and public space management – including $4.8 million to clean up homeless encampments
- 55 new jobs to improve customer service efforts at AUS airport
- $79 million investment in affordable housing to meet goals set by the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint
- $1 million towards a Trauma Recovery Center to support victims of violent crime
- $3.6 million for wildfire prevention and education
- A $2.5 million investment in the Iconic Venue Fund, to help secure places of cultural significance
- Funding for three Austin Police cadet classes to help fill officer vacancies and improve response times to emergency calls
Between when the city manager presented the proposed budget in mid-July to when the council has passed the finalized budget on Thursday, some tweaks were made.
The City said stronger-than-expected sales tax revenues and other changes freed up an extra $20.3 million. City council used $7 million to increase the general fund to raise the city’s minimum wage to $20 per hour.
Here’s a breakdown of some other amendments that were made:
- $17.8 million in capital funding to complete construction of the Goodnight Ranch Fire/EMS station in southeast Austin
- An additional $3 million in one-time funding, added to the $5 million proposed by the city manager, to help prevent displacement and homelessness as rents rise
- A further increase in the number of full-time lifeguards, from the four proposed by the city manager to 13, to help address staff shortages and keep the City’s pools open and safe
- $1.2 million to expand a life-saving program providing whole blood transfusions to patients before they reach the hospital
- Option to run additional police academies customized for candidates with prior law enforcement experience
- $350,000 to provide education and services focused on sexual and reproductive health and wellness and contraception following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
New tax rate
The City approved the property tax rate of 46.27 cents per $100 of taxable value.
The City said the tax bill for the typical homeowner, defined as the owner of a median-valued ($453,727) non-senior home, will be $1,679.52 per year or $139.96 per month. The annual bill for typical senior or disabled homeowners will be $1,104.12 — down $9.12 from last year.
The City said its rates and fees for services like power and trash will rise for typical rate payers due to increasing operations costs and the growing population. Taken together, the combined projected impact of tax, rate and fee changes represent an increase of 3.8%, according to the City — equivalent to an additional $169.68 per year or $14.14 per month.
The new budget will take effect on Oct. 1.