As City Council members were rolling up their sleeves and preparing to jump into Monday's budget discussion, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo delivered some news that made the process a little easier for council.
Acevedo announced they'll use a $200,000 federal grant to help fix the DNA kit backlog at the forensic lab that shut down earlier this year...with untested DNA dating back years.
"We're very confident and I can almost assure you that we'll be able to get it done within our existing resources between the grant and some other existing funding, we'll be able to get the backlog squared away," Acevedo said.
Emily LeBlanc with Safe Alliance says it's a great first step.
"I'm feeling confident. I'm extremely happy and excited to hear that APD has shuffled their priorities in order to cover the existing backlog and I appreciate the work of APD and council to make that a priority," LeBlanc said.
But as Council Member Greg Casar pointed out, the staffing of the lab is still in council's hands. $1.4 million for new DNA analysts and a supervisor
"Council is continuing its budget deliberations to ensure that in the future we'll have enough staffing so that we don't have a backlog again," Casar said.
Council is expected to finalize the budget over the next few days. Council Member Delia Garza is frustrated with how much important work is being done so close to the budget deadline. She says proposed cuts from council members haven't made their way to the concept menu. Garza said they're working from what is essentially Mayor Adler's proposed budget.
"Obviously it's his prerogative to decide what he's going to propose but there are 10 other council members as well and as someone who worked really hard in getting 10-1 passed, I feel in certain ways council members are losing a little bit of power in working on this budget and that's a concern," Garza said.
Also discussed was APD's body cams. One of the options council is looking at is funding the cameras but not the iPhone app APD wanted to go along with it. The council budget talks aren't expected to go beyond Wednesday. The ultimate deadline is the end of the month.