Austin City Council approves budget, including $150M APD cut

Talk 1370 Newsroom
August 13, 2020 - 11:27 am
Austin City Hall
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AUSTIN (Talk1370.com) -- The Austin City Council on Thursday gave final approval to the city's 2020-21 budget, including reallocating more than $150 million from the budget of the Austin Police Department.

The $4.2 billion budget, approved by a unanimous vote Thursday, comes after weeks of meetings and hearings, and hours upon hours of citizen comments - many of whom have called for cuts in the wake of protests against police brutality.

"I think this is without a doubt the most significant change in Austin public safety priorities in generations," said council member Greg Casar.

The more than $150 million in cuts represents about a third of APD's $434 million total budget.

$21 million would immediately be reinvested into a number of other programs and services. That funding will come from cutting three upcoming cadet classes, reducing overtime pay, and cutting vacant, unfilled officer positions. The money will be redirected into several programs, including coronavirus response, violence prevention, victim services, housing programs, and mental health services.

Police Chief Brian Manley, speaking before council members last week, said cutting the cadet classes will put APD back at 2012 staffing levels. "I do believe this really represents one of the greatest threats to the safety of our community," Manley said.

Another $80 million represents programs and services that the city will move into other departments. These include the forensics lab, communications, victim services, community partnerships, and others.

The remaining funds, approximately $50 million, will be put into a "Reimagine Public Safety Fund" as additional functions and services are transitioned out of or "reimagined" within the department.

Voters will need to approve a proposed tax rate of 53.35 cents in November. According to the city, a median value home ($326,368) will see a property tax increase of $332.39 per year, or $27.70 a month.

Additional spending priorities included in the budget are:

  • $60.9 million to strengthen the City’s commitment to end homelessness in Austin through housing displacement prevention, crisis mitigation, and re-empowerment efforts
  • Additional $3.5 million in low interest loans to small businesses through the Family Business Loan Program
  • $735,000 to enhance the City’s open-data portal, increasing transparency for Austin residents
  • $1.5 million for improvements to the Asian American Resource Center, Carver Museum, and Mexican American Cultural Center
  • $423,000 and 6 new positions to fully implement the citywide curbside organic materials collection program
  • $14.7 million for sidewalk improvements and $2.3 million for pedestrian safety including hybrid beacons, audible crosswalk indicators, and more visible signs and markings
  • $5.1 million for crisis response and victim services.
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