Austin City Council

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The holiday season will bring more than presents for Austinites. It will also bring maps outlining the boundaries for 10 City Council districts — if the grueling process of tweaking and finalizing the districts wraps up in time for Christmas. 

But the Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission — the volunteer citizen group charged with drawing the maps — is accepting comments on its preliminary map during a regular meeting tonight and a public input meeting Wednesday.

Phoebe Ann Flanigan for KUT News

Earlier this month, Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department took on a difficult task – cleaning up Austin’s five city-owned cemeteries. But the cleanup policies have rankled some families of the dead.

The city received a barrage of complaints after it began citing graves adorned with extra objects for code violations: benches, birdbaths, vegetation, wind chimes, stones and more.

Today, the Austin City Council will look to revise the city’s strategy and finally put the issue to rest. The cleanup, which was slated to begin Nov. 1, could be delayed another six months.

City of Austin

Update: The group of Austinites in charge of drawing geographic city council districts is meeting this evening for the first time since approving a preliminary map.

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is splitting the city into ten parts – each will be represented by a city council member.

But some people have expressed concerns that the districts the commission has drawn so far don’t accurately represent communities. For example, right now, District 7 runs along Mopac from North of Parmer Lane to Lady Bird Lake.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: Austin City Council members unanimously approved a rental registration program early this morning (Items 11, 12).

Council members were considering two different proposals. One would have required the owners of rental property in certain areas of the city to register. But the proposal the council approved will require rental properties with multiple health and safety violations to be registered – no matter where the properties are located in the city.

The program requires properties on the registration list to be periodically inspected.

Out of a population of 24,000, who will be the one person to represent Dove Springs?

Last November, Austin voters agreed to adopt a geographic form of city government: one mayor and 10 districts with one council member each.

Advocates for geographic representation argue the old way left large parts of Austin unrepresented. The seven members of the current Austin City Council all live north of Lady Bird Lake, and close to the city’s core.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This week, the Austin City Council approved a $3.3 billion budget of for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in October.

As part of the deal, they increased funding for youth programs by over $1 million. That includes an increase in the Austin School District afterschool program, Prime Time, which was started by Austin Interfaith in the 1990s. 

Liang Shi for KUT News

Update: For the first time since 2007, the Austin City Council has voted to lower the city’s property tax rate. The council finalized the fiscal year 2014 budget this afternoon.

Granted, the tax rate hasn’t fallen by much: two-hundredths of a penny (from 50.29 to 50.27 cents) for every $100 dollars of valuation. For the owner of a $200,000 home, that amounts to a savings of 40 cents a year. Mayor Lee Leffingwell had pressed for a bigger cut.

The Austin City Council returns to the dais as 10 a.m. this morning to finalize the city's Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Yesterday, council members voted unanimously to hold the line of property tax rates. They also spent most of the day funding initiatives that weren't in City Manager Marc Ott's initial budget proposal.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes today to another crowded agenda. Here’s a rundown:

  • Sound off on the proposed city budget, property taxes and fees

Lots of council action won’t happen until much later today: Several public hearings are set for this afternoon related to City Manager Marc Ott’s proposed city budget, which the council is currently discussing. There’s public hearings on the proposed property tax rate, Austin Energy and Austin Water rates, and additional proposed fee increases (trash, drainage, etc.)

Travis County Appraisal District

Of the six largest cities in Texas, Austin is the one with the lowest property tax rate. But does that tell the whole story?

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Every budget year, public safety – police, fire and EMS – take the biggest chunk of money from the funds used to finance city services. Today, Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman asked if the city was getting a good return on its investment.

The Austin City Council is considering the city budget for the next fiscal year. And the Austin Police Department was among the groups presenting budget requests to the council today. Police Chief Art Acevedo spent over an hour discussing the city manager's proposed city budget – which preserves Austin’s informal policy of two police officers for every thousand Austin residents.

City of Austin

Update: The developers of the J.W. Marriott convention center downtown won’t be getting nearly $4 million in fee waivers.

In a late night hearing, the Austin City Council declined to act on an item that would have forgiven “past non-compliance” on developer White Lodging’s part. In return for $3.8 million in fee waivers, White Lodging agreed to pay construction and trade workers the prevailing wage on the project. But the company instead paid many workers a differently calculated, lower wage.

A proposed budget for the City of Austin has the cost of living on the rise – again.

The proposed city budget for 2014, unveiled today, would mean about a $4 monthly increase for owners of a $185,000 home. And that doesn’t include additional rate and fee changes.

When Austinites voted last fall to create the independent commission that will draw the city’s new geographic City Council districts, 14 citizens from all walks of life were chosen to be part of this commission.

The understanding was that average Austinites would lead the process. But it turns out the commission may hire an entire staff to give them a hand.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Austin voters will likely be asked to approve bond dollars for affordable housing, after a similar proposition was voted down in last November.

On Monday, city council members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley, along with housing advocates from Keep Austin Affordable, announced their support for a $65 million bond program on the November 2013 ballot. They said the spending could finance more affordable housing – without raising the tax rate.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The Austin City Council is getting ready for summer recess, but before members take off they’ve been approving projects that eventually could drastically change the look and feel of the city. Thursday’s session may not have seemed like a game-changer, but it has huge implications for the future.

Sinclair Black & Andrew Vernooy

Update (June 20): This morning Austin City Council members decided to go ahead and approve a resolution supporting a I-35 National Environmental Policy Act study for a plan to reconnect East & West Austin by submerging it from approximately River Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Council also directed the City Manager to develop an economic impact study and look at associated financing options.

The City of Austin has established its new Citizen’s Redistricting Commission, a group of 14 citizens who will draw the city's first boundaries for city council districts.

In selecting candidates, city officials drew at random from a pool of qualified volunteers. Thursday night, the commissioners met to select candidates who would join them in the task of redistricting. 

KUT News

Austin’s new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is expected to be fully in place tonight. That’s the group of Austin residents who will draw the city’s first geographic council districts.

Last November when voters approved the charter that changed the city’s form of government from at-large to geographic, they also approved the establishment of the commission in two steps.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

A debate over two Austin City Council proposals to track problem rental properties continued into the early hours of the morning.

After hearing from many Austinites about the issue, council members voted unanimously to pass an effort to create a registry for properties with a history of violations. A similar move to track all rental properties in certain parts of the city passed 5 to 2.

City employees will soon be able to take 30 days of paid parental leave.