The Austin City Council has approved a $3.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year. Coming after hours of discussion, which began at a meeting yesterday, the final vote was six to one. Mayor Lee Leffingwell was the lone vote against the budget.
“My intention is to vote no as a symbol, an an acknowledgment hopefully, that we could have done better,” Mayor Leffingwell said prior to the vote. “I’m not going to let this be a unanimous vote that the entire council approve this budget with a huge, a large spending increase.” Leffingwell surprised his colleagues yesterday by calling for a two percent across the board cut to most departments in the city’s general fund, excluding the public safety departments. That proposal failed on a similar six to one margin, with only the mayor voting aye.
At the meeting today, council member Bill Spelman said it was too late in the process for revisions like those Leffingwell proposed.
“By the time we’ve got a budget which is printed in two volumes of this size, with this level of detail, it’s not going to be possible for us to completely unmake that budget and come up with reductions of two, three, five percent in a department. Too much water has gone under the bridge. We’re too far gone for that.”
The final vote included the same property tax increase that city staff had originally proposed – a hike of 2.2 cents, although council members offered several amendments taking money from some projects and adding them to others.
The new budget includes a three percent pay raise for employees and will add about 150 jobs. It will also mean a property tax increase. The owner of a 200,000 dollar home will pay an extra $22 per year.