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Budget town hall results are in

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The City of Austin has released the results of its first three nights of citizen input into forthcoming city budget cuts. (There’s one more budget meeting tonight.)


Citizens participating in the meetings indicated they do not want to eliminate or postpone a planned police cadet class, a $5.2 million item. They also were opposed to a proposal to cut $1.2 million for police overtime for “hotspot” initiatives.


There was wide support for increasing revenue streams. The three ideas that got the most support were: increasing parking tickets, increasing development fees, and, most popular of all, making SXSW events pay for their own security. Other popular ideas were charging a nominal fee for the Trail of Lights and adding 52 cents a month to each household’s utility bill for transportation-user fees. This latter item was amongst the most lucrative of the options, netting $3.5 million for the city.


Another idea that participants favored was converting two fire engines to medical support units, and eliminating special pay incentives for firefighters.


Participants were asked to discuss and vote on a “menu” of 29 potential budget cuts totaling $45 million. The tables of nine citizens each were asked to get a majority of the table to agree to between $9.3 million and $13 million in cuts. The city broke down the voting results for each meeting, and listed the percentage of votes and the actual tallies for and against each cut. 


Predictably, library issues seemed to divide participants on whether the libraries should reduce their book budget, custodial services and hours. Citizens generally did not support eliminating supervised playground programs for kids during the summer. Overall, only 21 percent of participants voted in favor of that idea. However, closing under-used swimming pools won support.


The city has also released the results of a survey of residents showing that 89 percent gave Austin high marks as a place to live. Respondents said the qualities that give Austin that distinction are low crime, good water quality and maintenance of city streets and sidewalks.


Tonight’s meeting starts at 6:30pm at the Givens Recreation Center. The Council is scheduled to receive the proposed budget from City Manager Marc Ott on July 22.

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