The Austin City Council voted 6-1 on Sept. 11 to adopt the 2012–13 budget and property tax rate increase after two days of deliberation. Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted against adopting the budget and tax rate.
“I'm a little bit disappointed with the way this turned out,” Leffingwell said before the council voted on the budget. “I set out originally, as I said yesterday, with the hope that we would reduce the property tax rate. … We're going to pass the budget, and I intend to vote 'no' as a symbol that we could have done better.”
The 2012–13 budget is $3.1 billion and goes into effect Oct. 1. The new property tax rate is 50.29 cents per $100 of property valuation, an increase of 2.18 cents from last year's rate of 48.11 cents per $100 of property valuation.
The property tax increase means the owner of a median-priced home—$178,327—is estimated to pay $74.75 per month, according to city officials.
“Those things making us a great city cost money,” Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said. “We simply can't have it both ways in providing these services, these needs, these major services and at the same time, cut taxes. So it's always a careful balancing act … and I feel like we have tried to do that.”
During their first day of discussion, the council voted down the mayor's amendment to cut the budget by more than $4.4 million in non–public safety departments. The council discussed other amendments to the budget, including amending the Austin Energy budget to increase funds for the solar rebate program by about $3.5 million, allocating funding for the River City Youth Foundation within social services contracts by about $73,000 and reducing the police overtime budget by about $200,000 to add funding to the Council for At Risk Youth.
The total amendments submitted by council members increased budget expenditures by about $1 million from the general fund resources and about $5 million in other operating funds. Mayor Leffingwell voted against many of the amendments because they used funds from the city's reserves.
Other items in the budget include funding for a short-term rental program in the code compliance department with three additional positions—about $352,000, funding for an innovation program so the city can develop ideas to improve service and a 3 percent wage increase for all employees.
“I think you've adopted a very responsible fiscal plan for 2013,” City Manager Marc Ott told the council.