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Ott memo warns of budget challenges

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 by Jo Clifton

On the eve of today’s briefing on the city’s economic outlook, City Manager Marc Ott advised City Council of the need for caution in planning the upcoming budget. In a memo to the mayor and Council on Friday, Ott noted, “The Fiscal Year 2016 General Fund budget increased by $57.1 million over the prior year. Not only was this the single largest year-over-year increase in the city’s history, but many of the new initiatives approved by Council in FY2016 had a significant portion of the cost deferred to the FY2017 budget.” Those cost drivers include civilian market adjustments, which are projected to cost the city $4.3 million in the upcoming fiscal year. Additionally, the 42-hour workweek for sworn Emergency Medical Services personnel is projected to cost $3.5 million in 2017, and the addition of 98 new civilian positions, which were deferred for three months or more in the current budget, will add another $1.5 million to the cost drivers. The new fire company at the Shady Hollow fire station is projected to cost $1.3 million in FY 2017. Other Council actions that have significant cost implications include an increase in the housing trust fund transfer and an increase in police overtime related to South by Southwest. Each of those is expected to add $1.5 million annually to the city’s cost drivers, the memo says. The bottom line, Ott told Council, is that it should prepare “for a challenging budget cycle marked by an intensified need for fiscal restraint.” Nevertheless, Ott said he and his staff intend to have significant policy discussions about the budget during the month of May, leaving behind the typical numerical minutiae seen in previous budget presentations.

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