Thursday, September 14, 2017

#TROXROX: Predictably terrible budget passes...but Troxclair KILLS SxSW SUBSIDIES!!!

"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.
Proverbs 21:20

Good for Ellen:

  • $1 BILLION General Fund this year.
  • "Taxpayers might be given the short end of the stick."
    • Note: That's the understatement of a lifetime.
  • Troxclair: At the rate city property taxes are going up, the average bill will double in nine years..."it's ABSOLUTELY unsustainable."
  • Troxclair: "People's #1 complaint is the skyrocketing cost of living."
  • Troxclair: Travis county has adopted the effective tax rate for the past three years.
    • "That's exactly where the city of Austin should start."
  • Troxclair: "When we're talking about gentrification and being economically segregated, this is one reason why; people who have lived in Austin for years cannot afford to keep paying the increases in their property taxes."
  • Council only gets to determine $5 million out of the entire $4 BILLION budget.
More from this morning's Statesman:
Austin leaders on Wednesday night passed a $3.9 billion 2018 budget — a new record for the growing city — after days and months of City Council frustration over wanting to add social services money and feeling hemmed in by previous spending commitments.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 includes a $1 billion general fund, which covers most city operations, plus self-sustaining funds for things like electricity, water and aviation. It raises tax revenue 7.9 percent, just under the 8 percent limit that could trigger a rollback election, for a tax rate of 44.48 cents per $100 of property value.

An owner of a median valued home of $305,510 will see a $151 increase in city taxes and other fees.

Both the budget and the tax rate passed 8-3, with Council Members Ellen Troxclair, Jimmy Flannigan and Ora Houston opposed. Those three raised concerns that the city was dipping into its 12 percent reserve fund buffer, even if only slightly, and they wanted to slightly lessen the tax increase.

The budget does not increase the city’s 8 percent homestead exemption — that ship sailed in July — but the city’s homestead exemption for senior and disabled residents to bumped up from $82,500 to $85,500. The exemption lowers the value of a home for taxation purposes.


Some tensions flared when Troxclair led a successful vote to have $1.2 million in hotel tax revenue pay for security at festivals, intending to follow that with a request to put the corresponding savings from the general fund toward tax relief. But Council Member Greg Casar preempted her with a motion to put $580,000 of it to various social services. That measure passed 7-4, with Troxclair, Flannigan, Houston and Alison Alter opposed.


The 2018 budget built in cost increases for things already approved, like $1.9 million and nine new employees to staff the new Central Library, set to open next month, and 2.5 percent pay increases for civilian city employees.
 From the Monitor:
Council also voted unanimously to use $1.2 million of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to cover security-related costs at South by Southwest, therefore liberating that much money from the General Fund for other uses.

Troxclair, who led the effort to free up those HOT funds by reducing funding for the Austin Convention Center and Visit Austin (formerly known as the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau), celebrated the moment by thanking her colleagues and city staff for making the effort possible. “This is a big moment. This didn’t come easy,” she said, referencing a policy decision that Mayor Steve Adler had at first vigorously opposed.

Troxclair’s delight quickly turned to outrage, however, after Adler recognized Casar, who introduced a motion to use $580,000 of that money to boost funding to many of the same programs that his previous motion had reduced funding for.

The mayor, said Troxclair, had told her that he was going to allow her to offer a motion to return the $1.2 million to taxpayers. Adler replied that she still could – after the vote on Casar’s motion. “If this passes I won’t have the opportunity to do that,” she argued, asking if she could offer a substitute motion. Adler denied her request, saying that the motion was not germane to what Casar was proposing.

The heated procedural debate between Adler and Troxclair became even more complex when Council Member Alison Alter chimed in from the other end of the dais with her own substitute motion to put the $580,000 in the city’s budget reserve. “Your difficulty is with what now?” asked the flummoxed mayor, who also rejected Alter’s motion.

After further back-and-forth over procedure, Council voted to approve Casar’s motion, with Troxclair, Alter, Flannigan and Houston in dissent.

Troxclair then motioned to essentially undo some of the prior committed spending and instead put $1 million toward reducing the property tax rate and $200,000 toward increasing the senior exemption.

Adler said that he wanted to keep taxes low but could not support the level that Troxclair proposed. Troxclair ridiculed the notion that $1 million out of a $1 billion budget was too much. “This is the absolute very least we can do,” she said, before she was joined by Flannigan, Houston, Alter and Council Member Ann Kitchen in support of her defeated motion.
TPPF also released a statement:
“Austin city government continues to make Central Texas’ affordability problem worse,” said James Quintero, who leads the Think Local Liberty project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The city’s mammoth $3.9 billion budget significantly increases taxes and fees for the average Austinite, making it that much more difficult for struggling families and businesses to make ends meet. It’s disingenuous for city officials to talk about Austin’s affordability problem while endlessly growing the burden of government.”
  • You GO Ellen Troxclair!!!
  • Of the new members: Flannigan votes no while Alter votes yes.
    • Once again, we find ourselves missing Sherri Gallo (also, lesson learned).
  • Adler and Casar doing something shady together...imagine that.
  • "$151 increase in city taxes and other fees...."
    • One top of the increase last year, and the year before that, and the year before that....
  • Even if Adler and Casar had to do something cute on re-allocating the money, for Troxclair to successfully kill the SxSW subsidy remains pretty huge!!!
  • So, in the end, Adler faked 14% to make 8% sound reasonable; it still doesn't sound reasonable.
Bottom Line: We've been resigned to this happening for awhile.  But there's going to be some very interesting coalition opportunities in the coming months.  To quote Jonathan Stickland, #onward....

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