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Council set to amend and adopt city budget

Tuesday August 16th, 2022 by Jo Clifton

Mayor Steve Adler is proposing a raise for city council members and the next mayor starting in 2023 after he leaves. His proposal will be considered as part of the council’s budget-passing process, which begins tomorrow – although it is unclear whether they will complete the job on the same day.

Council will also consider and likely approve council member Vanessa Fuentes’ amendment to increase the city’s minimum wage to $20 per hour for all employees except summer program employees. youth. They will also consider a long list of other spending and fundraising proposals.

According to Adler’s proposed amendment, the last time city officials got a major salary adjustment was in 2006. Council members currently earn around $83,000 a year, while the mayor earns $97,000. $. Adler does not withhold his salary but uses it to augment his office budget and staff salaries.

A recent market study of Council support staff salaries recommended increases in their compensation.

In some cases, this would mean that the staff member had a higher salary than the elected official who employed them. Additionally, Council members receive considerably less than Travis County Commissioners, who are paid $140,000 a year. The county judge receives $160,000.

Council member Kathie Tovo proposed numerous changes, including a plan to use more than $400,000 from the Rainey Street Historic District fund to celebrate the Mexican-American identity, heritage and history of the region. According to Tovo, there are already enough funds, but the Council needs to pass an amendment to spend more than $200,000 of the Rainey fund at one time.

Tovo is also proposing to increase City Hall parking fees from $5 to $10 per hour. This would have no impact on people who visit City Hall for council or commission meetings, but would increase income for those who simply use the garage as a convenient place to park.

Council member Paige Ellis has a variety of parks and environment-related proposals, including retaining lifeguards. Additionally, Ellis seeks to eliminate city regulations that appear designed to discourage former city employees from returning to their jobs. She also proposes to encourage municipal employees to stay longer by making their benefits more attractive. In her message board post, Ellis said she would like to make the fiscal 2022 winter vacation bonus permanent and provide a third personal holiday per year. She also proposes to expand the city’s tuition reimbursement program.

Like Ellis, council member Chito Vela wants to encourage more people to become lifeguards. Staff members proposed adding four full-time lifeguard positions for city pools. Vela would like that number to be 19 permanent positions. He wrote on the Council’s bulletin board: “Adding these 15 new staff to the 4 new full-time positions in the proposed budget brings us to 19 new FTEs to help keep our pools open and safe year-round. … These permanent, full-time positions will help us deal with lifeguard shortages that have caused pools to close over the summer.

Vela is proposing to allocate an additional $5 million in one-time funding for the Housing Rental Assistance Program, and it is seeking $125,000 for environmental testing around the Fayette Power project area. In his message board post, Vela wrote: “The testing program is intended to assess the danger to people in the surrounding area due to possible contamination from the operation of the coal-fired power plant. For implementation, we are asking the Austin Department of Public Health to develop a set of testing parameters and bid guidelines so that we can issue a request for proposals.

He also has a number of ideas for improving city parks. One would ask the city manager to allocate approximately $140,000 from the PARD budget for facility maintenance and an additional employee. It proposes directing the City Manager “to prioritize infrastructure to provide necessary shade, including tree planting, for existing and future community activity spaces, including but not including limit, playgrounds, paddling pools, basketball courts and ice rinks as far as possible”.

Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter has a number of budget proposals, including several related to emergency medical services. EMS has struggled to keep track of its billings in the past, and while the situation has apparently improved, according to Alter’s message board post, “there remains an estimated 19,000 EMS billing backlog despite measures initials taken by city staff”. She wants to order the city manager to recruit additional EMS employees using “additional revenue generated from billing process improvements.”

On the other side of the equation, council member Ann Kitchen is calling for an increase in the property tax exemption for elderly and disabled homeowners. Kitchen wants to increase the untaxed amount from $113,000 per year to $124,000. According to his calculations, this would offset the impact of the proposed housing obligation with an estimated savings of more than $50 per taxpayer.

Fuentes also offers to complete construction of the Goodnight Ranch Fire and EMS station in his district. She suggests financing this construction with $17.75 million in bond certificates. In a message posted on a bulletin board, Fuentes said building the station would help the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood by funding its security infrastructure needs.

Council member Mackenzie Kelly is offering to fund two modified police cadet academies for FY22-23 “if funding is available within the police department’s budget,” she wrote on the bulletin board. . Council members Kitchen and Leslie Pool are listed as supporters of this amendment. Kelly says APD has 270 vacancies and the additional officers would help reduce response times and increase officer retention.

Kelly also offers to hire a full-time animal behavior specialist to work with the city’s office of animal services. This person would work directly with the cats and dogs to facilitate their adoption.

In addition to the various budget proposals, Council will review and possibly discuss the proposed dedication fee for business development as well as the police department’s request to fund a contract for license plate readers.

This is not an exhaustive list of the Council’s proposals. If they do not conclude the adoption of the budget by the end of the day on Wednesday, the Council has already posted a similar agenda, from 10 am Friday.

Photo by slgckgc made available via a Creative Commons license.

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