Here’s a financial crash diet: going from $1.5 billion to $575 million. And then, down to $400 million.
Those are some of the moves Austin’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force has recently made. A citizen group appointed by the Austin City Council, the group was tasked with paring down an initial $1.5 billion “needs assessment” from the city’s various departments into something it could put to voters this November.
At a meeting Monday, the task force recommended what it feels is a balanced bond package. But because a separate vote on Urban Rail funding might also make it to the ballot – the Transportation department is set to make a recommendation for rail investment this Tuesday, May 29 – the task force is also compiling a smaller, roughly $400 million package to recommend, should rail make it to the voters.
KUT News has combed through the task force’s $575 million recommendation. Here’s what we found, broken down by category:
The task force recommended an overall affordable housing budget of approximately $100 million to “create, preserve, and maintain housing affordability for low and moderate income individuals and families.”
The committee approved some $98 million in city facilities programs and projects, including new facilities for the Austin Fire Department and Police Department.
- A proposal from the Fire Department for maintenance and breathing air shops was approved at almost $15 million. It would relocate those facilities from their current location on East 51st Street.
- The Police Department’s proposal for a new Northwest Substation was recommended, at a cost of almost $16 million.
$150 million for park-related projects and programs made the cut.
$20 million was earmarked for improvements to “metropolitan parks” – larger parks like Zilker that serve the whole city – for “accessibility, infrastructure, structures, picnic and play equipment, site furnishings, [and] landscape,” plus renovations.
- A proposal for a community building in Montopolis neighborhood park was approved at $15.5 million. The funds will cover the "removal and replacement of the existing recreation center in Montopolis Park with a new community center jointly developed with the Health and Human Services Department, including associated park improvements."
In the Parks budget, $44.4 million was earmarked for open space purchase by the city’s Watershed Protection department. This spending would “acquire properties to protect water quality and quantity for maintenance of recreational quality, endangered species habitat, and light recreational activities.”
The task force approved $208 million in transportation-related projects and programs.
- A budget for Interstate 35 improvements was approved at $35 million. Goals include redesigning aspects of I-35 to “address congestion, high pedestrian crash rates and disruptive land closures due to accidents.”
- A street reconstruction program was approved at $46.5 million. This program will “replace failing streets and the associated infrastructure throughout the City… [by] replacing the street, bikeways, sidewalks, curbs and gutters.”
- Additionally, a city-wide "sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters" proposal was approved at $30 million.
Five community projects were approved at $17 million.
- The Mexic-Arte Museum originally requested $10 million for the construction of a new six-story building downtown. The project was approved by the task force at $3 million.
- Funds for an expansion of Austin Studios were approved at $7.5 million. The expansion would increase the amount of square feet available for film and television production, and increase the amount of office space for creative small businesses.
- Recommended projects also include funds for construction of a planetarium, mobility improvements around the Mueller development, and a 34-mile trail system that will link central Austin through the Barton Creek Greenbelt.