City Budget Give-and-Take Continuing
The Austin City Council spent all day Monday negotiating what would and wouldn’t be in the 2013 budget. The document had already been tweaked and re-tweaked by earlier department hearings and community input. Adoption this week was supposed to be the next step, but the council could push that back a few more days.
Council members this week are going through the budget with a fine-toothed comb. They want the budget to be balanced, and they don’t want to call for a special election to raise taxes.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell wants to raise property taxes by 2.2 cents, an increase of about $18 a month for a median-value Austin home. To adhere to that plan, Leffingwell proposed Monday that every department except police, fire and EMS cut their budgets by 2 percent. That proposal failed.
“We are walking a fine line,” Leffingwell said. “It’s going to be a difficult and lengthy process.”
That difficulty was highlighted later in the day when council member Mike Martinez tried to find $200,000 for at-risk youth programs. Martinez proposed taking the money from the Police Department’s overtime budget.
APD Chief Art Acevedo said that that money pays officers who work after hours in human trafficking cases.
“It’ll be tough,” Acevedo said. “It’ll be tough to handle.”
But Martinez thinks the agency can make the sacrifice.
“I stood in the face of criticism to support APD’s request for an almost $4 million helicopter fund,” Martinez said. “I’m trying to strike a very difficult balance, and I think $200,000 is nothing to APD but it means everything to the council and at-risk youth and to those 600 middle school students they provide services to.”
Negotiations are scheduled to continue through Wednesday.