3 Council Members vote 'no' to Austin's $4 billion budget

For District 6 City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, it's his first time on the dais participating in the budget process. He asked city staffers how this one compared to previous years.

"No one can remember a budget as contentious, as difficult as passionate," Flannigan said.

Those passions came to a head Wednesday evening.  

"I would like to make a motion to have Visit Austin pay $1.2 million out of its lawfully available funds to cover security during the spring festival season," Troxclair said last night.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair's motion to use hotel occupancy taxes to foot the bill for police overtime during SXSW passed. Her hope after that was to give that money back to the taxpayers. 

But Council Member Greg Casar brought forth a motion to put about $580,000 of it to various services. So Troxclair made another motion to apply a million dollars to lower the tax rate and $200,000 toward a senior exemption increase.

"I know there are a lot of things out there that we need, a lot of wants that we have, a lot of real critical issues but it's time that we consider giving back something to the people who we call on all the time to say ‘we need more money, we need more money’ and ‘we're going to increase your taxes in order to get that money,’" said Council Member Ora Houston.

Mayor Adler said he wanted to help taxpayers but couldn't support relief at the million-dollar level.

"To the Mayor's comment that he supports tax relief but he can't support it at this level, this level is a drop in the bucket!  $1 million out of a billion!  Out of 4 billion!  This is the absolute very least that we can do," Troxclair said.

That motion didn't get enough support to pass. The senior exemption item did and then council voted to put about $420,000 toward tax relief, lowering the tax rate from 44.51 cents to 44.48.

Mayor Adler is proud of the budget.  As the process came to a close, council spent most of their time trying to figure out what to do with the last $5 million. "The biggest allocation out of that almost $2 million went for our children.  After school programs, parent-teacher support specialists," Adler said.

Council Members Flannigan, Houston and Troxclair voted 'no' to the budget.  Flannigan says due to uncertainty with the current administration, it was necessary to replenish the city's reserves.

"Not only did we fail to replenish our reserves which had dropped from the last 2 years, but we dropped it below the financial minimum," Flannigan said.

"We have over $100 million in our reserves in the city.  And I think that puts us in a really good place and it's one of the reasons our city enjoys an AA+ credit rating," Adler said. 

But Adler says it wouldn't surprise him if Council decided during mid-year budget amendments to increase the reserves just in case federal funding doesn't continue.

For information from the City of Austin on what this means for taxpayers, click here.

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