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The City of Austin is currently developing the operating budget for fiscal year 2012. Based on revenue projections and spending cost drivers, the City is looking to close a budget gap of $9.8 million. This assumes a three cent increase in the current tax rate (per $100 of assessed property value).

 In recent years, the City of Austin has taken numerous steps to reduce expenditures. For example, in fiscal year 2010 all City employees went without pay increases. In fiscal year 2011 the City eliminated and repurposed vacant positions in several departments, repurposed funding for the Trail of Lights toward parks grounds maintenance, and reduced funding for the LBJ High School Fire Academy.

Use this forum to post your ideas on how Austin could further reduce expenditures or generate new revenue.

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Check out the following links for more information about the budget and other ways to get involved.

Budget Public Meeting Schedule

FY 2012 Proposed Budget Volume I

FY 2012 Proposed Budget Volume II

FY 2012 Board and Commission Meeting Summaries 

FY 2012 Budget Reductions Addendum

FY 2012 Proposed Budget Presentation to Council

FY 2012 General Fund Forecast (pdf and video)

 FY 2012 Enterprise Funds Forecast (pdf and Austin Energy video, Austin Water and Solid Waste Services video, Watershed/Transportation/Public Works video)

FY 2012 Unmet Service Demands Requests

FY 2012 Potential Budget Reductions

 FY 2011 Approved Budget General Fund

FY 2011 Approved Budget Enterprise Funds

 FY 2010 Annual Performance Report 

Horizon Issues Report and Update

    Ted W about 6 years ago

    Recently it came to public knowledge that there are over 1.2 billion dollar coins sitting unused in US Mint vaults. This is costing US taxpayers over $300 million a year. The politics of the production of these coins is long and complex, but I'd rather not get into that for these purposes. My thought is that there may be some way for Austin to use some of this surplus to our benefit.

    First, I think we may want to look at city cash operations. The coins have many advantages:They last longer than $1 bills. The coins are easier to feed into vending machines, pay transit fares, and parking meters. How much could the city be losing repairing dollar bill feeds or by citizens opting not to use a worn out $1 bill that the machine would not take? In order to encourage the use of the $1 coin, the US Mint will actually ship the coins at cost with free shipping to buyers. So if we pay handling fees just to get $1 bills, we might be able to eliminate those by switching to the coins instead.

    Second, this will help decrease government waste. By using these coins no one would otherwise use, we are actually putting the coins in circulation. It also creates revenue for the US Government. Since the coins cost about 30 cents each to make, they are basically sold when put into circulation, for $1. This principle is called seigniorage. This increases federal revenue and we hope this all might trickle down to us.

    Instead of supplying $1 bills, we load our cash register drawers with $1 coins, and hand those out as change instead of $1 bills. Of course the majority of people will for awhile still pay with bills and we circulate those back. I find though most people when I use $1 coins have never seen them before and I think a lot of the problem is they are just not out there in circulation. City of Austin could serve as a kind of seeder for the coins on our local economy. Psychologically, people tend not to think much of handing out coins as they do bills. So instead of all those things we impulsively use change for, like tipping, handouts to panhandlers, or even just less hesitation for regular cash purchases, by using dollar coins, we are actually increasing the amount that is circulated to whole dollars instead of just cents. This could increase revenue in many ways, for example people just feeding the parking meter a whole dollar instead of the cents for a couple minutes. 

    Finally, wouldn't it make Austin weird to be a city where $1 coin use is common?

    11 Votes Acknowledged

    Please do not close the Austin Recreation Center (1301 Shoal Creek, 78701), as proposed in the current draft budget. I have personally attended Jazzercise classes there for over 28 years and there are many others who have done the same. Children rely on its summer and after-school programs and it also houses a popular adult volleyball league. This wonderful centrally-located center is used by many, yet has so much more potential for usage and revenue.

    The Austin community values fitness, and we value good after school and summer activities and care for our children. Why would we close one of our premier facilities in the central city where we are bringing thousands more citizens to live and work?

    It appears the center has been targeted for closure because the City recently decided that the subsidy to this facility offers a convenient budget cut!   Recently, the City decided that a private entity should be found to operate this rec center in order to cut the city's $230,000 difference between costs and revenue!  Since no private entity has been found to agree to the terms of the deal (one entity that was approached said it's simply not a realistic business plan), staff is preparing letters to folks saying the Rec Center will close on October 1st of this year! 

     The idea to cut PARD's budget by leasing ARC does not work and now staff is saying ARC will simply close. Has staff ever been directed to look at "losses" in running city rec centers? Have they structured fees to cover costs?  Have efficiencies been sought? These concepts seem to be new to staff and I do not feel it is wise to simply start closing facilities before the broader picture is considered. Whether Rec Centers (or any other public buildings) will continue to be subsidized is an interesting question but not a question that currently has answers.  If some buildings are expected to break even, they may require managers with a different skill set than the ones currently in place.

     CONSIDERATIONS: Having talked to staff, I have learned several relevant facts about the Austin Rec Center situation that clearly underscore the false economy of shuttering this building on October 1st:

      1. PARD is undertaking a fee analysis to determine where losses are occurring and opportunities for increases may exist. This analysis will be completed in January in time to apply its findings in the NEXT budget; it would be hugely premature to close this or any facility before the review is complete. ACC is one of the major users of the Austin Rec Center and it is quite possible that a fee adjustment for this entity (which does not pay city taxes) would improve the center's financial efficiency. It makes sense to look for efficiencies across the board, but to close a fully used facility on a whim seems a bad policy choice. 

     2. Last year Austin Recreation Center (now about 25 years old) received an energy audit, a new roof, new HVAC systems and other energy saving retrofits. This work has not even gone through one cycle to determine what savings are being realized so the center's current and future operating costs could be far lower than in the past. 

     3. The City is overlooking additional potential income from the facility. For example, last year ARC management decided that lockers, long rented to Jazzercise students, could no longer be rented because the fees were not in the city budget and there was a fear that contraband might be left in them.  So these city lockers now stand vacant while our Jazzercise instructor obtained new private lockers for our use.  If the goal is to make the center self-sustaining, this is not sensible fiscal management.

    The Jazzercise students, users of the weight room and other class attendees include many city, state and AISD employees who attend at their lunch hour or just after work, as well as other central city residents, ACC students and visitors to the city who are staying downtown. Closing this facility will certainly impact fitness especially for those of us who cannot exercise outdoors and in the sun during Austin's many months of prohibitively high temperatures.

    Please look at the facts and adjust your fees accordingly before you close a great, centrally located facility. Please also bear in mind that even "mothballing" a building for a year has its own risks and expenses. Once the users are all sent to seek other venues, if it is later determined to reopen the center, promotional expenses will be required to seek new programs and users as well as new staff.

    I love Austin and have spent much of my life fostering its well-being, but I am very distressed this year as the City puts our pools on the block, AISD offers Baker School for sale, and now the City considers closing the ARC - and on top of this, my taxes and those of my neighbors will go up again. Meanwhile, owners of commercial apartment buildings in my neighborhood continue to pay substantially lower taxes than Austin homeowners. The City also continues to vastly undercharge on development fees.

     I urge you to expect efficiency in the operation of city facilities, but the closure of Austin Recreation Center in just weeks is wrong. 

    As responsible stewards of our City, I implore you to address Austin's skewed fee structure immediately and to direct your appointees to TCAD to address the glaring tax inequities between commercial residential property and owner-occupied homes. If the City's only answer is to continue to cut city services for residents while giving fee and tax breaks to developers, you can bet I will be very grumpy! and I might not be the only one!

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    16 Votes Acknowledged

    Chris Self over 6 years ago

    Reduce the billing statement to a single page!  It will reduce waste of and cost of paper for the billing department...hopefully to be passed on to City Utility customers.

    Chris Self

    512 288-3205

    22 Votes In Progress

    Cassie Melendez over 6 years ago

    Please don't close Gillis Park Pool. It serves several neighborhoods around the S 1st/Oltorf area. It is a must have in the summer time. It served a variety of people (including many who don't have access to computers to use this voting system). Additionally by drawing people to the park it makes the area safer. The closest pool (Big Stacy) is already overcrowded. Please find another way to meet budget cuts.

    33 Votes Not Planned

    Amy Oldham over 6 years ago

    Please do not close our pool!  The Bowie High School swim team practices at Dick Nichols Pool according to an agreement with the City to help fund the cost of heating the pool.  This is an important facility for our program because there are few other options available for these swimmers.  Our swimmers are very dedicated and work hard to practice together as a team, even during the cold winter months as the District and Regional meets are at the end of January/February.   Please come up with an alternative plan which will allow the Dick Nichols Pool to remain open to serve our local neighborhoods and our high school athletes.

    14 Votes Acknowledged

    M M over 6 years ago
    23 Votes Not Planned

    Please do not close Balcones Neighborhood Pool. There are lots of kids and adults who use this pool on a regular basis!

    43 Votes Under Review

    The annual fee for operating a valet concession is very low.  The profit margin for valet parking is very high.  The City is practically giving away a concessions that they could easily charge much more for without affecting the concessionaires' ability to do business or necessitating any increase in parking charges.

    0 Comments 30 Votes Under Review

    I really think that Austin should have free city-wide wifi.  Then, we could charge for advertising.  Lots of folks want to advertise to Austinites.  I'm sure they would pay big for such a wide audience.

    6 Votes Not Planned

    Let's get more revenue from the dumb people who still buy cancer sticks and blow their smoke all over town.

    12 Votes Not Planned