“Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed."
1 Samuel 2:3
The Austin City Council got its first look Wednesday at the city staff’s proposed 2016-17 budget, which includes $56 million in increased general fund spending, 435 new employees citywide and a tax and fee structure that will add $150 to the average homeowner’s annual expenses.Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo described the budget as “scrambling to try to keep pace” with a city population that is expected to hit 937,065 in 2017, up from 842,743 three years ago.Though the city’s tax rate is projected to be lower than last year, rising property values mean the bill for property owners will be higher, even with an increased homestead exemption approved last month. The proposed tax rate of 44 cents per $100 of property value is as high as the city can make it without possibly triggering an election.City Manager Marc Ott told the council that an abundance of spending and committed funds had made this budget tighter than others in recent years.“We’re feeling the full impact of that in this budget,” he said. “I cannot overstate the importance, in my view, of moving back to a more conservative posture.”Mayor Steve Adler, who didn’t attend Wednesday’s budget workshop but spoke to reporters via phone from the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, called it a “good initial place to start,” but he emphasized that the council would certainly make changes.“The council in any year needs to be conservative and prudent in spending taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We had a balanced budget last year, and we’ll have a balanced budget this year. I think what the city manager was saying is we can’t go outside of that.”More fees & new costsThe proposed budget includes increases to all city fees, utility charges and property tax bills. The owner of a home with a taxable value of $278,741 (the average in the city) would pay $44 more in property taxes.Monthly water and garbage rates, utility fees and drainage fees would also go up. The city’s staff estimated the total increase in taxes and fees for an average Austinite would be $150, a 4 percent increase.Homeowners could have faced an even larger property tax bill if the council hadn’t voted last month to increase the homestead exemption to knock 8 percent off the value of a home for tax purposes, up from 6 percent this year. That change is expected to shave $23 off the typical homeowner’s tax bill.
Then, there's this:
Translation: Ott and Adler are playing Bad Cop/Good Cop. Ott is proposing something so far out in left field that even council balks. Then Adler plays the hero with a "more reasonable" spending hike and everyone is supposed to sing kumbaya.
This is one of the oldest games in the book.
And, keep in mind, this is on top of Austin ISD's obscene budget.
We're not necessarily crazy about homestead exemptions, and we certainly have issues with the Austin Neighborhoods Council, but amen on this:
Bottom Line: We'll see what happens during August, but if you know how to read between the lines, this is not a good sign.But others said rising taxes were too much of a squeeze already, and the exemption was a little relief.“Do (they) have any idea what the appraisal value for normal people is?” said Mary Ingle, president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council. “The homestead exemption is a necessary thing right now if you have examined a normal person’s tax bill.”