AUSTIN (KXAN) – After weeks of deliberation, the Austin City Council approved a $ 4.5 billion budget for 2021-2022.
The Council also voted for a 4.7% increase in tax revenue from last year. The city’s budget authorities say Austin homeowners with the average home value will save about $ 17.11 on their tax bill. It is important to note the calculation factors for homeowners’ savings due to the city doubling the household exemption from 10 to 20%.
Normally, cities in Texas can only increase property tax revenue by 3.5% per year – any increase beyond that would trigger a tax rate choice. Declarations of disaster due to COVID-19 and the February winter storm allow cities to exceed this threshold for next year.
The hottest topic during the city’s budget process has been the amount of money allocated to Austin Police. The APD’s budget of $ 442 million for 2021-2022 is record high. It includes funds for two cadet classes.
After reviewing the department’s training and culture, the city stopped and resumed cadet classes in June with a new “rethought” curriculum.
A directive from the council ordered City Manager Spencer Cronk not to start at 145th Cadet Class until the evaluation and recommendations of the 144th Pilot Cadet Class have been incorporated. The 144th class acts as a pilot for how the APD will train new officers going forward. The class gets an overhaul of the syllabus and teaching materials. A consulting firm, city leaders and evaluation panels will oversee the class. APD is expected to receive ongoing feedback on ongoing changes.
APD Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the department has 1,809 posts and 1,650 are occupied. He added that the APD loses an average of 15 officers a month.
Other budget changes adopted by the council include one-time funding for park rangers, anti-displacement programs and relief money for iconic local venues. These do not change much in the budget.
Here are some of the other highlights:
- $ 79.0 million in cost of affordable housing
- $ 65 million in funding for the city’s response to homelessness, including prevention, crisis response, housing stabilization and public space management
- $ 29 million for Reimagining Public Safety initiatives
- $ 27 million to build new sidewalks and improve existing sidewalks throughout the city.
Another development that evolved out of budget discussions is COVID-19 vaccine incentives for employees in the city of Austin. Employees who can present proof of vaccination and are exposed to or infected with the virus will be given two weeks extra paid leave.