AUSTIN, Texas - Austin City Council has approved its fiscal year 2020-2021 budget which includes the cutting of $150 million in funds to the Austin Police Department.
Officials say that of that $150 million, $23 million will be reinvested for social programs and services. The breakdown, according to a news release from the City of Austin, will be:
- Reduce Austin Police Department (APD) funding by approximately $20 million – taken primarily from cadet classes and overtime – to reinvest in permanent supportive housing and services, EMS for COVID-19 response, family violence shelter and protection, violence prevention, workforce development, and a range of other programs.
- Move a number of APD functions (and related funding of nearly $80 million) out of APD over the course of the fiscal year. These include Forensics Sciences, Communications/911 call center, strategic support, and internal affairs.
- Create a Reimagine Safety Fund to divert almost $50 million from APD toward alternative forms of public safety and community support, to be delivered from outside APD, as determined through the year-long reimagining process.
The total APD budget that was approved will be about $290 million which is down from the $434 million that was in the proposed budget.
Following months of demonstrations against police brutality in the wake of Minnesota man George Floyd’s death, activists had been pushing for the city to defund the Austin Police Department by $100 million.
Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition said he would have wanted $40 million in immediate funding cuts, but this vote is a step in the right direction.
“Some of these functions just won’t be in APD and they will be civilian ran. But I think the money that will be left for reimagining public safety can potentially go to alternative public safety models or back into the community."
The Greater Austin Crime Commission is concerned about the city not having enough cops. “The cadet classes are the backbone of the organization and the backbone of the department. So taking away those cadet classes puts us further and further behind,” said Corby Jastrow, president.
During Monday, August 12's budget hearings, about 250 phone speakers signed up and more in-person at the Palmer Events Center to talk about the budget.
The entire fiscal year 2020-2021 budget totals $4.2 billion and officials say it assumes a property tax rate of 53.5 cents per $100 of taxable value which includes additional money for the Project Connect initiative. Voters will need to approve those additional taxes to fund Project Connect.
Officials also say that under the adopted budget, typical ratepayers will see their Austin Energy bills go down and their Austin Water bills are frozen. Austin Resource Recovery charges will increase, by just over $31 per year, to pay for the citywide implementation of curbside organic materials collection.
Other highlights from the budget include:
- $60.9 million to strengthen the City’s commitment to end homelessness in Austin through housing displacement prevention, crisis mitigation, and re-empowerment efforts
- Additional $3.5 million in low-interest loans to small businesses through the Family Business Loan Program
- $735,000 to enhance the City’s open-data portal, increasing transparency for Austin residents
- $1.5 million for improvements to the Asian American Resource Center, Carver Museum, and Mexican American Cultural Center
- $423,000 and 6 new positions to fully implement the citywide curbside organic materials collection program
- $14.7 million for sidewalk improvements and $2.3 million for pedestrian safety including hybrid beacons, audible crosswalk indicators, and more visible signs and markings
- $5.1 million for crisis response and victim services.
Attorney General Ken Paxton gave this statement following the Austin City Council’s decision to cut $150 million from the Austin Police Department’s budget:
“The unwarranted attack by the Austin mayor and city council on their police department’s budget is no more than a political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture. Unfortunately, the targets of this ‘cancelling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe. The city council’s action to slash funding disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens, and the many guests who frequent it. The City of Austin already struggles to combat widespread crime, violence and homelessness. In light of rising violent crime rates in many cities across the country as well the majority of Austinites opposing defunding police, the mayor and the city council should immediately reconsider this ill-advised effort at virtue signaling; which will endanger lives and property in Austin.”