The City of Austin is preparing to take more of residents’ money yet again.
Last week, Austin City Council met to discuss preliminary plans for next year’s budget. There was no discussion on if taxes should be raised—the only question was by how much.
One proposal offered a 6 percent increase, another went up to 8 percent. Both amounts initially received favorable ratings from over half the council members.
This kind of high increase has become routine though. District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair, the lone conservative voice on the council, noted that fact on Facebook following the meeting.
“Your city tax fee is expected to go up next year, yet again!” she said. “The city has raised taxes nearly 8% in 8 of the last 11 years, a pace that will double your tax bill in 9 years… This is unsustainable!”
According to the budget presentation at the meeting, the city will need a 5 percent increase simply to maintain all the spending they are currently planning. A couple of council members, including the mayor, voiced their support for raising it even higher.
“Given what’s happening at the state legislature I would want to err on a higher tax rate in order to increase our reserves,” said Mayor Steve Adler.
Why does the mayor refer to the state legislature?
Because conservative lawmakers are hoping to pass legislation that would lower the rollback rate, which means Austin would have to get voter approval if the city wanted to raise taxes above a certain percentage set by the state. Apparently Adler does not like the idea of Austin voters having the ability to veto tax hikes: that’s why he wants to rake in as much money as possible before increased accountability comes.
Even District 1 Council Member Ora Houston dismissed the mayor’s idea of needing more money for “reserves.”
“I’ve seen this happen where we’ve had reserves and the suggestion was to wait,” she said, “but we didn’t—we spent all of it. I can’t trust that it would be put in reserves and not be spent.”
As Houston notes, Austin’s problem certainly isn’t a lack of funds. It’s unhinged spending.
Countless wasteful programs drain millions of dollars from the city’s budget every year, programs that even District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said they have “no idea if they’re making a result and are just throwing money at a wall.”
Yet is the city’s solution to eliminate their own waste and let taxpayers keep more of the money they earn? No, they want to take more money.
This is an alarming course for the city. Residents are already moving out because they can’t afford to live in Austin.
Taxpayers can and should take action against this trend. Contact the city council and tell them to stop taking more money and wasting it, or else vote them out of office. Different decisions must be made if Austin wants to be an affordable city for all.
Yet the decision rests in the hands of the people, but they must use the power given to them in order to hold the city council accountable.
It’s their own money at stake, after all.