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Council aiming for four percent tax levy increase

After a lengthy discussion, the Austin City Council opted to plan on a four percent tax levy increase when making the budget for 2021 during its Monday evening work session.

The discussion came as the result of the mayor-appointed Budget Working Group, consisting of Councilmembers Jeff Austin, Laura Helle and Steve King, suggesting a tax levy increase of six percent as a means to save two city positions from layoff.

The positions facing possible layoff were not revealed.

With the State currently facing a $2.3 billion deficit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty of how Local Government Aid (LGA) will be affected and how it will impact the city’s finances is a major concern for the council. 

Councilman Steve King (Second Ward) expressed concerns about having to layoff the two positions, noting that the city is already facing a loss of full time employees because it is not filling empty positions. 

Councilman Jason Baskin (Second Ward) said he was opposed to a six percent increase, saying that the council already made a commitment to the taxpayers that it would keep the levy increase within zero to four percent. 

Councilwoman Laura Helle (First Ward) said she would be in favor of a six percent increase as a response to the LGA situation, but not for the funding of the two positions.

In a 5-2 vote, the council decided to move forward with the budgeting process with a four percent increase as the parameter. The vote came on a motion from Councilman Jeff Austin (At-Large).

The vote also included the use of the fund balance as a means to finance the two positions and avoid layoffs. Councilmembers Baskin and Helle cast the dissenting votes.

Although the council aims to follow the parameters, they are subject to change over the course of the budgeting process. 

The council will have a more formal budget proposal presented at its next work session.  

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