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Rising property taxes are a growing concern. There are a number of people who believe taxes are high because the city provides not only essential city services (police, fire, etc.) but non-essential services (social service contracts, education funding, etc.) If elected, how would you prioritize what is or is not an essential city service?

Ann Kitchen

City Council, District 5

The Council passed the 2019 budget this week and I believe the strategic priorities of the council are reflected in the changes to the budget, which reflects the Council’s understanding that social services contribute to essential public safety functions and can be cost effective investments for the city in terms of achieving results. The Council also understands that public health is necessary to public safety, including priorities like taking care of our parks. The list below is from the City’s release after the final vote and includes examples of key priorities of mine, as well as the Council’s. While I advocated for more support for addressing homeless issues and was disappointed the Council did not provide the full amount of funding that I thought was necessary, I am happy that additional support for this public health crisis was funded.

Example of budget provisions in the City Manager budget the Council adopted that address tax burdens and essential city services:

  • An increase in the general homestead exemption from 8% to 10%
  • Full funding for the Housing Trust Fund via a total transfer of $5.3 million, a $3.1 million increase
  • $5.7 million for 33 police officers and equipment, bringing the total number of officers to 1,929
  • An initial $5.4 million for two new fire stations at Moore’s Crossing and Travis Country. $1.7 million including 16 fire fighters and equipment for the new Onion Creek Station, bringing the total number of sworn fire personnel to 1,197 and the number of fire stations to 49
  • Projected spending of $67.7 million on the 2012 and 2016 Mobility Bond projects, including sidewalks, bike lanes, urban trails, and safety improvements, and Council adopted Corridor Construction Program
  • $11.2 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, funded from Hotel Occupancy Taxes
  • $1.1 million for disease prevention, public health, and translation services
  • $1.8 million in aquatic maintenance, bringing the total Aquatics activity budget to $10.7 million
  • Living wage increase from $13.84 per hour to $15.00, achieving Council’s goal a year early.
  • $2.4 million of new funding for homelessness programs, building on $26.3 million in on-going expenditures.
  • $119,000 for 2 new victim services counselors, which brings total program staffing to 29 positions

The Council built on the City Manager’s budget to align with priorities. The Council added to the City Manager’s Proposed Budget:

– An increase in the senior/disabled homestead exemption – by $2,500 to $88,000

– An extra $1 million for homelessness

– An additional $1.1 million for the Extended Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT) to help individuals with mental illness

– $75,000 for planning a best-practice approach for first response for people experiencing mental health crisis

– Additional funding for parent support specialists, victim services and relationship violence programs.