Austin
1:17 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

City Projects Deficit, Tax Increase Expected

The Austin City Council got its first look at budget projections for the next fiscal year today.

Budget managers told council members that falling property values and sales tax collections mean revenue is not keeping up with the cost of maintaining city services at current levels. The projections showed homeowners could face higher property taxes next year.

Today's presentation only focused on the city's General Fund, which funds things like parks, police, firefighters and other core city services. It does not include so-called 'enterprise funds' like Austin Energy and the city's water utility, which fund themselves through fees for their services.

Budget managers did assume a 3-cent increase in property taxes, the maximum council could impose without putting the increase to voters.  It would amount to an extra $30 per year in taxes for every $100,000 in assessed home value. That owner of a home at the city's median value for 2010 - $184,484 - would end up paying about $57 more next year.

Even if the council imposes the rollback rate, it still leaves a gap of $9.8 million, according to city projections. That number also does not include more than $15 million in funding and personnel that city department say they need.

The projections also assume a 3 percent raise for all city employees.

Officials expressed concern over moves by the Texas Legislature and the US Congress that would take millions of dollars away from municipalities. The extent of those losses is still an open question, as the budget debate at the Texas Capitol continues.

Today's budget presentation was only the first step in a budget conversation that will last until September.

This year's projected shortfall is less than the one predicted for the current fiscal year at this time last year. Then, budget managers predicted a shortfall of $11 million.