Spencer Cronk cites tackling COVID-19 and re-imagining public safety as key priorities
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk today, July 13, 2020, presented his proposed Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget to City Council. Via videoconference, Cronk laid out the highlights and key themes of his proposals for City tax and spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2020.
This year’s proposed budget of $4.2 billion – the same size as last year’s – adjusts to new fiscal constraints and community expectations, with focused investments in core programs and City infrastructure. The proposed $1.1 billion General Fund budget supports re-imagining public safety through a reallocation of Police funding to health, housing, and other critical social services. The Capital Budget includes $1.2 billion in planned spending.
- Proposed Budget - Snapshot
- Proposed Budget - Re-imagining Public Safety
- Proposed Budget - Taxpayer Impact Assessment
- Proposed Budget - Full Document
- Proposed Budget - City Manager's Message
During his presentation, which was broadcast live and will be available to view again at ATXN.TV, Cronk identified tackling COVID-19 and re-imagining public safety as the two biggest priorities for the City in the year ahead.
“Austin remains engulfed by a pandemic that has caused tragic loss across our community, upended our way of life, and triggered an unprecedentedly swift economic contraction. At the same time, the City is taking new steps to confront and end the long history of systemic injustices experienced by people of color by our public safety institutions,” said Cronk. “This budget meets these crises head-on, building on work to combat COVID-19 and help our community recover from its effects, while accelerating the process of re-imagining our public safety system to ensure justice and equal treatment for all our residents.”
Cronk said: “It is nearly impossible to overstate the magnitude of the challenge that COVID-19 has presented, of the loss felt in our community, and of the strain it has placed on everyone’s resources.”
The adverse fiscal effects of the virus is anticipated to leave the City more than $200 million, nearly 5%, below budgeted projections by the end of the current fiscal year. At the same time the City faces “unprecedented demand for additional resources to respond to and emerge from this crisis”.
The proposed budget leverages federal funding provided through the CARES Act to help support the $272-million framework for the City’s COVID-19 response, approved by Council in June. The framework includes planned expenditures of $106 million for emergency response, $63 million for medical and public health needs, and $103 million for economic support.
On Public Safety:
Cronk said: “To ensure our community’s resilience requires us to confront the systemic and inequitable treatment that communities of color have experienced for generations, most visibly and tragically in the name of public safety. The recent deaths of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer and our own officer-involved shooting death of Mr. Michael Ramos have amplified the call for justice in our community in ways we cannot ignore. The City has started down the path toward ending this injustice but we have further to go and we must stay the course to redefine public safety in Austin.”
The budget proposes reducing the Austin Police Department budget by $11.3 million, eliminating 100 vacant sworn Police positions from the base forecast and delaying cadet classes in the process. Funding is reallocated to alternative public safety strategies and public health services, including mental health first response and family violence programs. Additional funds are earmarked for the new Civil Rights Office, the Equity Office, and the Office of Police Oversight.
Other spending proposals:
- $60.9 million to strengthen the City’s commitment to end homelessness in Austin through housing displacement prevention, crisis mitigation, and re-empowerment efforts
- Additional $3.5 million in Economic Injury Bridge Loans to small businesses through the Family Business Loan Program
- $735,000 to enhance the City’s open-data portal, increasing transparency for Austin residents
- $1.5 million for improvements to the Asian American Resource Center, Carver Museum, and Mexican American Cultural Center
- $423,000 and 6 new positions to fully implement the citywide curbside organic materials collection program
- $14.7 million for sidewalk improvements and $2.3 million for pedestrian safety including hybrid beacons, audible crosswalk indicators, and more visible signs and markings
- $5.1 million for crisis response and victim services
Impact on taxpayers:
- The proposed property tax rate is $0.4377 cents per $100 of taxable value, a slight reduction from the current rate of $0.4386. The rate is 3.5% above the effective Operations and Maintenance rate – the lowest such increase since fiscal year 2004-05
- A typical tax and rate payer would pay an additional 0.3% for tax, rates and fees combined – equivalent to $12.53 per year or $1.04 per month. This includes a bill reduction for the typical Austin Energy customer, a freeze in Austin Water rates, and an increase in Austin Resource Recovery charges to pay for the citywide implementation of curbside organic materials collection
The coming weeks will provide time for public input and budget work sessions. City Council will have the opportunity to review and initiate amendments to the Proposed Budget before final adoption, which is scheduled for August 12.
For more information about the City's Budget development process go to austintexas.gov/budget.