Fresh off its July recess and warmed up with a regular work session yesterday, the Austin City Council kicked off presentations and discussions for the city's 2017/18 budget.
Still a working draft, city staff laid out this morning (ending shortly before 1PM) how it arrived at the $3.9 billion figure. Current tensions between the Texas Legislature and city governments also found its way into the discussion. Over several meetings this month, Council will now deliberate and negotiate a budget for approval in September.
Staff budget presentations, including the Development Services Department (a major focus of the commercial and residential development community), will be next Tuesday, August 9th. The department, commonly called DSD, served as a point of contention for several Council Members. Per the draft budget, DSD would see some of the largest budget increases, from $37.5 million in 2017 to $58.4 million in 2018. The increase would provide for increased permitting staff and in turn allow faster turnarounds on projects, something long desired and welcomed by the development community. Several council members expressed concern that there was an imbalance between DSD priorities (deemed necessary by the Zucker Report) and health and human services/public safety priorities.
Additionally, as proposed, the draft budget provides $5 million for Strategic Outcomes, initiatives identified by Council (generally through resolutions) as priorities in the previous year. These include: Community Policing, New Fire Stations, Parent Support and Specialists (funds would go to AISD), and Quality of Life Initiatives. Council Member Delia Garza (District 2) noted the $5 million was not prescriptive, and the Council could allocate amounts greater than that if it chose. The City of Austin's fiscal year begins on Sunday, October 1.
Notes: Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Pio Renteria (District 3) indicated they would be absent at next week's August 10 Council meeting.
The Zucker Report (A 2015 study was initiated by the City Manager to conduct an organizational and operational analysis of the Development Services Department in an effort to increase process efficiency, customer satisfaction, and delivery of accurate and timely services.)
//The Bingham Group