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Tax rate, transfers for parks, libraries, win approval

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 by Jo Clifton

It was just a formality, but City Council voted 9-2 on Tuesday to adopt the Fiscal Year 2015-16 property tax rate of 45.89 cents per $100 of valuation, a 6.8 percent increase over last year. Council Members Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman voted no without comment. They had previously voted against the rate and expressed their concerns about raising taxes.

In addition, Council approved the concept of transferring money from Council offices to other departments at the discretion of the Council member.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Council Members Delia Garza and Pio Renteria had talked to staff about transferring money from their offices’ unexpended funds to pay for improvements in their districts. And on Tuesday, Troxclair and Council Member Leslie Pool said they too had money in their office budgets to contribute to other departments for use in their districts.

Garza wanted to find a source of funding to open a short-term branch library when the Southeast branch library is closed for renovations. She is contributing $45,000 that her office has not spent for that effort.

Renteria said he had $30,000 and wanted to see that go to recreation centers in District 3. He did not specify which centers should get the funding, but the Camacho Activity Center and the Metz, Montopolis, Oswaldo A.B. Cantu/Pan American, South Austin and Parque Zaragoza recreation centers are in his district.

Troxclair said she wanted to spend $30,000 from her budget for new recreation equipment at Dick Nichols Park in District 8. Pool said she wanted to transfer her unexpended money, which Chief Budget Officer Ed Van Eenoo said was $45,000, to buy new materials for libraries.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo pointed out that previous City Councils had made similar transfers without authorization from Council. She wanted to know why they were required to vote on it this year.

Van Eenoo said Council had to vote on the matter because of language in the city charter. “We have a charter that says if you want to spend the money from one department for the uses of another department, you have to transfer the funds, and that transfer can only be approved by Council,” he said.

Much of the money being transferred is available because Council members voted earlier in the year to add money to their office budgets to hire additional staff. Those who did not hire more staff have the extra funds.

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