City Gets a Look at First Draft of Budget
The Austin City Council got its first glimpse at a proposed city budget today. If it passes, the median Austin homeowner will have to pay $18 more each month in city taxes and fees. That includes a 2.2 cent property tax increase, rising rates at Austin Energy and Austin Water, and small changes to the charges listed on utility bills.
This was the council’s first look at City Manager Marc Ott’s budget. And it’s more of a chance to ask questions or signal areas of interest than make big statements. But council member Bill Spelman wasn’t happy about how increases to the budget surpass the rate of inflation.
“An argument could be made that local government as a whole should not be taking more out of people’s pockets, meaning that our increase, on an annual basis, ought to be at about the rate of inflation,” Spelman said. “But twice the rate of inflation means we’re systematically taking more out of people’s incomes.”
The answer, Spelman was told, was that things like raises for employees and health care coverage are larger and more multifaceted than, say, the rising cost of a loaf of bread.
But Spelman says that while some costs aren’t controllable in the short term, the council needs to be conscious of the long term.
“If our costs are going up faster than the rate of inflation, it’s necessarily true were taking a bigger percentage out of people’s paycheck,” he said. “And people are entitled to know why it is we’re taking a higher percentage out of their paycheck. And what they’re going to get in exchange for that. And that’s something I think we’re going to have to work on a better answer for that over the next few weeks.”
Several more work sessions are scheduled before the city approves the final budget in September.