City Budget

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). 

The City of Austin’s General Fund ended fiscal year 2013 with a $14.2 million surplus. That figure amounts to a roughly 1 percent variance from projections made by city staff.

Despite the positive figure, Austin’s Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart told members of the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday that management was not planning on coming forward with a mid-year budget adjustment.

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.

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.

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.

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.

It's time to play everyone's favorite game!

The city's Budget in a Box gives folks outside city hall a chance to learn about the city's budgeting process, then try on the shoes of a city budgeter, cutting, padding and managing programs and agencies that keep the city humming along.

KUT News acquired a copy of the game and we gave a two reporters and a few interns the chance to give the budgeting process the old college try. Click the video below to see how we fared.

Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

The Austin City Council begins budget talks today after hearing a financial forecast for the city two weeks ago. This morning, the council will discuss budget presentations by city departments.

For the first time, those presentations are available for everyone to watch on the city’s YouTube channel. The city also included a video describing how revenue from taxes and utilities equate to city services.

City of Austin

The City of Austin’s trying something different this budget season: City department officials have made 20 videos that clock in at over 200 minutes, available on the city's YouTube channel.

The videos include everything from a basic overview of how revenue from taxes and utilities equate to city services, to a 25-minute financial forecast of public utility Austin Water. Each department’s financial forecast presentation is available online, so anyone who wants the lowdown on, say, the Public Works department, can get it.

Polcie photo Nathan Bernier; EMS photo Daniel Reese; Fire photo Callier Hernandez

Last week, the Austin City Council got its first look at the numbers for next year’s budget.

The financial outlook? Well … we’ll get back to you about that.

The thing is, Austin’s currently negotiating its three public safety contracts – police, fire and EMS. And budget staff call those contracts a wild card in the city’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Police Department is recommending the city hire as many as 250 more officers by 2017 to meet population growth. The suggested number came from a study by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Austin follows a rough ratio of two officers per thousand residents as a staffing guideline. Currently there’s just over 1,700 APD officers meeting the staffing guideline. 

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: In a protracted and somewhat testy meeting, the Austin City Council budgeted and allocated the sum of the city’s $14 million budget surplus.

The day’s big winner? Affordable housing initiatives, which were earmarked for $10 million. Wildfire fuel mitigation received a little over $1 million, the Child Inc. after-school program received $557,000, and a pilot program for 24 hour patrol of the Hike & Bike Trail received $350,000. You can view a complete list of the council’s actions.

Flickr user mvongrue,; Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

We’re still about a month away from March Madness, but Austin City Council members are already filling out their brackets.

The council is deliberating what to do with a $14 million budget surplus at mid-fiscal year – the result of higher-than-expected sales tax and development revenues. The council held one work session delving into the topic already; at its work session tomorrow, the council’s posted to take action spending all or part of the available surplus.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

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.

KUT News

Any hopes for a quick adoption of the City of Austin’s annual city budget went out the window this morning, as a proposal from Mayor Lee Leffingwell for a flat two percent cut to departmental budgets created a heated discussion among City Council members.

Citing the impact of a proposed 2.2 cent increase to property taxes – just short of the maximum increase allowed by state law without a special election – Mayor Leffingwell called for a two percent cut to most of the city’s general fund departments, which would create approximate savings of $4.5 million. A 2.2 cent property tax increase would mean an additional $18 each month in city fees and taxes for the owner of a median-valued home (approximately $186,000).

Leffingwell excluded the city’s public safety departments (police, fire and EMS) from the cuts – departments that are the biggest portion of the general fund.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The Austin City Council meets this morning to hash out the city’s budget for the next fiscal year. And with competing needs and limited dollars, council members may need three days to agree on the spending.

The city has an overall budget of $3.1 billion – that includes all city services and programs, including Austin Energy and Austin Water. But when it comes to budget adoption, most attention focuses on the general fund – the pot of money that pays for basic city services such as police, fire and EMS, parks, libraries and more. That amount has risen to $742.5 million this year.

General fund spending will likely consume much of council’s attention – council member Kathie Tovo tells KUT News she’s looking closely at funding for youth programs and recreation centers. But the property tax rate that pays for many city services may be on the table too.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin City Council members will hear from residents today about the city’s budget and the proposed property tax rate.

The proposed tax rate is up approximately 2 cents from last year – making it a little over 50 cents per $100 of taxable property value.

Council members are scheduled to adopt the city’s budget next month, in a series of meetings starting Sept. 10. Today’s public hearings are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in the council chambers, and as always, you can watch the action online.

Council member Bill Spelman is expected to return today, after a medical absence to remove a tumor from his pancreas.


Austin Police Want New Helicopter, More Staff

The council is set to discuss purchasing a new helicopter for the Austin Police Department today.

The department says its current fleet is old and in need of maintenance and that a new helicopter would enable officers to more quickly respond to some emergencies.

APD also wants council to approve a bigger budget for the department so it can hire more staff.