This summer, a group of 14 volunteers will begin the process of drawing new maps for Austin City Council districts.
The commission will work between six months and a year on those maps. And some of their expenses will be paid for by the city. Now, Austin City Council members are trying to hammer out what they think will be a “reasonable and necessary expense.”
On Tuesday, council members sought clarification from city attorneys like Sabine Romero as they tried to figure out just what is and is not considered reasonable. Romero told council one expense the city can cover is travel, but not a daily commute from point A (the commissioner’s home, for example) to point B (the group’s regular meeting place). Additional planned travel could be covered, however.
Council member Mike Martinez asked about childcare expenses. “The city does not reimburse childcare for city staff,” Romero said. Martinez wanted to know if that meant it “not be a reimbursable expense if you serve in the independent redistricting committee.” Romero replied that was her understanding.
The potential for a yearlong commitment, working for free, could become a financial burden on commissioners. So, the city’s goal is to minimize that burden while maintaining the commissioner’s independence, making sure expenses don’t amount to anything that resembles a salary.
Council will continue the discussion, and take possible action, on Thursday.