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In a recent poll, residents of Austin cited rising property taxes as a major issue they face, iconic business are having to close their doors and longtime residents are moving out citing rising property taxes. Some have also cited homelessness as an impediment to business. How would you slow or stop the increase in City property taxes, encourage other taxing entities to do the same, and balance the requests for more funding coming from the City Departments and the public? One example of the request of more funding is to expand social service contracts to meet needs, including to provide more supportive housing programs. How do you balance less taxes and increased demand for social services? Please explain.

Rich DePalma

City Council, District 8

A major reason for our high property taxes in Austin is the broken public school funding formula which needs to be prioritized by the Texas Legislature in the 2019 legislative session. The Austin Independent School District is the largest contributor to recapture and the taxes are impacting everyone in the city. AISD and Eanes ISD taxpayers pay more to recapture than their ENTIRE property taxes to the City of Austin. Moreover, high property taxes are not just homeowner problems – property appraisal and rising taxes are passed to renters through rising rents. I am the only candidate in the race who has testified at the state legislature and the Texas Commission on Public School Finance on the impact the funding formula is having on affordability and on our facilities. This work is only beginning and I am working with PAC out of Houston to address this issue through a statewide effort. When evaluating any solution or service, whether it is a social service or not, I want to see the business case for the decision. That business case should reflect the costs of non-action. My expectation is that all our departments have a strategic plan on what the projected future needs are and the council will need to balance meeting community needs and not creating additional affordability issues for those of our community who are on the financial edge. I do want to address our budget. During the budget year, we need to review all our contracts. We have departments operating under separate contracts for the same/similar products and services. We need to consolidate contracts and extend terms when it makes sense. When it is a software contract, we need to move to a universal licensing agreement. It may also be time to expand our purchasing program to operate as a cooperative purchasing program. Currently, the City of Austin is the number one city that uses the State of Texas Department of Information Resources cooperative contracting program. The state charges the fee and we are reliant on their best pricing. If we do a regional solution, then we can include more local businesses and keep the funding with the city. During budget planning, I want to determine which projects have a one to three return on investment. For example, for over a decade the City of Austin has needed a Human Resource Management System. Currently, all employees submit their time on paper time cards. That is just one example.