Clock ticking for Austin City Council to finalize budget

UPDATE: Austin City Council has approved the city's $3.7 billion dollar budget. 



Early Wednesday afternoon while council was on lunch break, Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo said a consensus on the budget is close.  She says the plan looks good so responds to areas the community sees as high priority.

"To name a few, we have funding included within this year's budget for the sobriety center, we have funding within this year's budget, if we approve it as is for the homelessness outreach street team," Tovo said.

Council Member Sherri Gallo on the other hand wasnt sure if the end was near.

"It's hard to say.  When we have 30-minute discussions on items that are $5,000 when we're talking about a $3.7 billion budget, it's hard to know how much longer the conversation is going to be," Gallo said.

As council debated on what to do with more than $145,000 in unallocated funds, council spent a couple of hours discussing a proposal from Mayor Pro Tem Tovo about spending $574,000 on security lighting in Austin's parks.

"Lights are one way that we bring down our public safety costs...and it's appropriate in the same way it's appropriate to have security lights along our streets, it's important to have them along our parks as well," Tovo said.

But Tovo proposed that Austin Energy pay for that.  Although the lighting idea was well recieved, some council members thought Parks and Rec should foot the bill.

Tovo's proposal didn't pass.

Council ended up dividing some money, giving some to "park safety."

Council Member Gallo hoped to talk about utility rates.

"I continue to hear from constituents and the people in this community that say 'control your spending City Council, quit increasing property taxes, quit increasing utility bills.  And this budget will do both," Gallo said.

Council ended up tabling that issue to the disappointment of Council Members Gallo and Zimmerman.

The city says the actual budget deadline is at the end of the month but they really have to finish today to give them enough time to prepare.