BG Note | News - What We're Reading (September 14, 2017)
[LOCAL] Council approves $3.9 billion budget (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Twelve hours after kicking off its final day of budget deliberations, City Council gave approval to a roughly $3.9 billion budget, including approximately $1 billion of General Fund spending.
Council approved a 7.9 percent tax rate increase, just below the 8 percent “rollback rate” that would allow taxpayers to challenge the rate via referendum. As a result, taxes and fees for the average household with a $305,000 home will rise $151 per year.
Both the budget and the tax rates to fund it were approved 8-3, with Council members Ora Houston, Jimmy Flannigan and Ellen Troxclair in dissent.
[LOCAL] Approved Austin 2018 budget will bring average $151 tax/fee increase (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
Austin leaders passed a $3.9 billion 2018 budget Wednesday night—a new record for the growing city—after days and months of City Council frustration over wanting to add social services money and feeling hemmed in by having tax increases already allocated.
The budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 includes a $1 billion general fund, which covers most city operations, plus self-sustaining funds for things like electricity, water and aviation. It raises tax revenue 7.9 percent, just under the 8 percent limit to trigger a possible rollback election, for a tax rate of 44.48 cents per $100 of property value.
[LOCAL] As Austin budget passes, council could reconsider Domain deal (KXAN) LINK TO STORY
As the Austin city budget deadline approached quickly, Council Member Leslie Pool said backing out of an economic incentive deal early with The Domain may be the best option to bringing more cash to the table. The Domain is in Pool’s District 7.
“I plan to continue to scrutinize the details on the agreement. We’ll be looking at both the costs and the benefits, and I will bring it back when I have that additional information and any action related to it assembled,” said Council Member Pool on Wednesday night, after the base budget was passed. “There’s more work to be done on this. We are digging deep into the details of the agreement. The property has been sold multiple times and we want to make sure that everything that was agreed upon is still happening.”
[LOCAL] Rezoning denial could mean east side showdown (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Planning commissioners took a united stand Tuesday night by voting to deny a rezoning application for an east side property that contains the former Montopolis Negro School.
The case has drawn controversy as it has moved through other city commissions, thanks in large part to the strong opposition of community members. Property owner Austin Stowell has applied for the property to be rezoned from single family to community commercial, with historic zoning granted for the school structure and a surrounding 25-foot buffer. But historian and Montopolis resident Fred McGhee said at the meeting that the entire 2-acre property, not just the building, was one of the most historic African-American sites in Austin.
[LOCAL] Cultural center sets path for future expansion as it turns 10 (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
When the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center opened its doors a decade ago, it realized a longtime community dream that some thought would never happen. Now with increased visitor traffic and minimal space for additional cultural programming, the center — which turns 10 this weekend — eyes an expansion that could carve a future path for the city and Austin’s rising Latino community.
“When I think about the MACC, it can’t just be another small cultural facility, especially in Austin, Texas,” said Rick Hernandez, the center’s advisory board chairman who has more than 30 years of experience leading arts and culture groups.
“Austin is too important, not just to Texas but to the nation as a whole.” For the past year, the center has been working on updating its master plan and gathering community feedback. Next month, it’ll host a public meeting to discuss future visions for the center.
[LOCAL] Slipping sales tax, more ridership in proposed Capital Metro budget (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
Capital Metro is preparing for a public hearing Thursday on its proposed 2017-18 budget, with plans to vote on it Sept. 29.
Here are five things to know about that proposed spending and operating plan:
Sales taxes are cooling: Capital Metro’s sales tax revenue has grown much more slowly over the past six months than during a several-year run of 5 percent to 9 percent increases. So agency officials are projecting a 2.5 percent revenue bump in the coming 12 months, to about $236 million.
More ridership finally? Boardings, after sharp drops three years in a row, were flat this year at about 30.4 million. But officials expect that to change: Capital Metro is adding about 3 percent more service in the coming year, primarily in its MetroRapid and MetroRail programs, and projects a ridership jump to 31.7 million.
Rail improvements coming: The agency estimates it will spend a $156.7 million on longer term needs, about half of it on MetroRail and its freight rail operation. Another $15.1 million will go for new buses and vans. The agency now has about 540 buses and vans and 10 rail cars.
Savings are shrinking: The agency’s “fund balance” — its savings account — is predicted to plunge from an estimated $159.6 million at the end of this month, when the fiscal year ends, to $76.1 million a year later. Much of that is due to the spending on rail improvements and other capital costs.
Ticket prices aren’t changing: Fares, now set at $1.25 for a regular bus rideand $3.50 to ride MetroRail or express buses, won’t go up next year. Fares cover just 11 percent of the cost of providing bus and rail service. The sales tax rate, which has been at its legal 1 percent ceiling since 1995 and provides about 70 percent of the Capital Metro’s revenue, won’t change either.
[LOCAL] Commissioners: Citizens advisory committee will help develop unincorporated Travis County transit plan (Community Impact) LINK TO STORY
Travis County commissioners decided today to appoint a 10-member citizens advisory committee to help develop a current and future transit service plan to the county’s unincorporated areas. The decision follows an interlocal agreement made with with Capital Metro in June to extend its services to these areas.
According to county documents, there are significant transit gaps in Travis County where Capital Metro or Capital Area Rural Transportation Services are unable provide service. During the public engagement process for the Travis County Transportation Plan, the county’s transportation and natural resources staff received over 500 comments addressing public transit. Most were supportive of more transit services and many requested additions in transit gap areas.
[STATE] Supreme Court puts redrawing of Texas political maps on hold (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a serious setback to those hoping Texas would see new congressional and House district maps ahead of the 2018 elections.
In separate orders issued Tuesday, the high court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of those maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color. The justices’ 5-4 decisions stay the rulings — which would have required new maps — as they take up an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the majority opinion.
[STATE] Dallas rejects resolution to ban travel, business with North Carolina over LGBT laws (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
Fresh off its own fight with state legislators over a bathroom bill, the city of Dallas won't be a party to the shunning of North Carolina.
By an 8-7 vote, the Dallas City Council rejected a resolution that would have banned taxpayer-funded trips to North Carolina and official dealings with the state's businesses. The resolution would have prevented official trips to Charlotte for the National League of Cities and could have threatened the city's relationship with its Charlotte-based banker, Bank of America.
Earlier this year, North Carolina partially repealed its contentious law, which had required transgender people to use a bathroom that corresponded to their gender at birth. The law still prohibits cities from enacting LGBT protections until 2020.
Within days, this Austin company hopes to start legally growing marijuana (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
The winding road that leads to Compassionate Cultivation could easily be mistaken for a dead end. It takes several seconds before drivers get off the main road and end up at a warehouse immediately surrounded by a dirt lot.
In a few months, however, scientists and manufacturers working out of this warehouse in Austin will begin legally growing marijuana.
“Soon we’ll have a variety of products that’ll be available that’ll tailor to the different needs of our patients,” said Morris Denton, the CEO for Compassionate Cultivation.