Proposition 16: Public Safety Funding
Note: Austin voters will decide seven bond propositions in the November elections. KUT News is taking a look at each of them as Election Day approaches.
Proposition 16 would allow the city to spend $31 million on public safety improvements. The money would go toward police, fire and emergency medical services. The bond’s critics are concerned it’s not enough to cover Austin’s public safety needs.
Austin Public Safety Commission Vice Chair Mike Levy says Austin’s No. 1 need didn’t get included on the proposition.
“There’s a huge deficit, not including a new fire station in the very-high-risk 360 corridor,” Levy said. “The Public Safety Commission has said that the biggest risk facing Austin is wildland fire. “
Levy says the population has grown significantly in that part of town. While emergency response times are slow. The proposed improvements on Proposition 16 do include a new Onion Creek Fire and EMS Station, fire department renovations and ambulance bay expansions and new police substations and facilities. But, Levy says again, the bond missed an important APD need.
“The other major deficit in the bond package for public safety is there is no money for a new police headquarters,” Levy said. “The one at 8th and the interstate is about 40 years old. “
Austin Police Assistant Chief Sean Mannix says the bond’s facilities shortcomings go beyond a new headquarters.
“Well, we started out the process with identified facilities needs that exceeded $100 million,” Mannix said. “So we’re obviously not getting everything that was identified by the Police Department as being necessary for our growth. “
But in order to not raise property taxes, the City Council whittled down the agency requests to the final $31 million. Mannix says the agency would like more, but they’ll make do with what they get.