The property tax rate in Austin will actually go down by a small margin. Tuesday, council members voted to adopt the $3.3 billion budget.
The new property tax rate will be two hundredths of a cent lower. For the average homeowner it means a savings of less than $1 a year. It doesn't sound like much, but it took a lot of prioritizing and number crunching to get to that point.
As long as Central Texas is in a drought, the threat of wildfires remains a concern for residents, including city leaders. Tuesday, council members voted to add two Austin Fire Dept. lieutenants who will focus on wildfire mitigation.
"There's such a great demand for the work they're going to do and some of that is what we call community outreach and that community outreach is the prevention and preparedness part of the community in what they can do to help keep themselves safe," Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted against that expense. In fact, he said no to most of the changes brought forth by council members. His number one priority: not raising the property tax rate.
"Most of these things I was voting no on were good things. Things that would help some people and would be a benefit to the community, but as I also said, we simply can't meet every need. We have to prioritize because the taxpayers have a need too," Leffingwell said.
Here's a breakdown of the property tax rate. The original budget proposal included a rate of 51.14 cents per $100 property value, which was an increase from the current rate of 50.29 cents. In the end, council members voted to decrease the rate by two hundredths of a cent.
"Bearing in mind there will still be a tax increase because appraised values have increased. We don't have control over appraised values. We do have control over the rate," Leffingwell said.
In order for that to happen, city jobs were eliminated including 10 proposed code compliance positions.
Mayor Leffingwell knows that's a department that could use more employees, but for now reducing the tax burden, even if very slightly, was the main concern.
"I heard a lot about the rising cost of living and the concern over it. We've read a lot in the newspaper and heard about it on other media that people are very concerned, not only about property taxes, but all the elements of the rising cost of living," Leffingwell said.
Also included in the budget were 47 additional APD officers and a 1.5 percent raise for city employees.
Council members also voted to fund youth programs and give additional money to parks and recreation.