DCA, city discuss finance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Part of the reason for the formation of the Development Corporation of Austin in 1986 was to move industrial development out of City Hall.

Wednesday, August 18, 1999

Part of the reason for the formation of the Development Corporation of Austin in 1986 was to move industrial development out of City Hall. Now, the city of Austin is proposing that the DCA move back in.

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At the end of the day, it’s a funding decision.

The DCA and the city

Three budgets ago, in 1997, the city of Austin changed the way it supported the Development Corporation of Austin because of a state statute that limited contractual support to $50,000. Prior to recognizing that statute, the city had given the DCA $85,000 a year, no strings attached other than that the development corporation continue to perform as intended.

When then-city director of administrative services Daryl Sulander pointed out that the donation exceeded state statute, the city arranged to donate the maximum ($50,000) and make $35,000 available on a need-to-have basis. Documentation was requested, but not a requirement, for any of the additional $35,000 used.

The $35,000 was used up in 1998 and no documentation provided as to how the money was spent. As a result, during last year’s budget process, the Austin City Council tightened up and said the $35,000 would be available for certain expenses – invoice required. As a result, only a few thousand were used by the DCA over the past year, nowhere close to the $35,000 the council had set aside in the budget.

Finance negotiations

Board chairman Craig Johnson asked at Monday’s council finance committee meeting that the city continue one more year with a similar funding agreement: "$50,000 in outright support plus $35,000 set aside to draw against for projects that are preapproved by the city."

The city, on the other hand, suggested that the $50,000 remain consistent and the DCA move its office to City Hall. Brophy would remain in his position as is, but DCA administrative assistant Trish Wiechmann would become a full-time employee of the city, still working as an assistant to Brophy, but also for other City Hall department heads.

"The city’s scenario for 2000 guarantees that the $35,000 is available to the DCA, but in a different way," city administrator Pat McGarvey said. "When it’s available on a project need basis, there’s no guarantee it will be spent."

Johnson was wary of commenting either way on the city’s proposal.

"I’m willing to look at the scenario 2000," Johnson said. "But I don’t want to speak for the rest of the board and the membership … It’s important we remain what we are – a private, non-profit company. Making a decision like this will take months."

In the end, the only firm decision made concerning the city’s DCA contribution was to keep the lines of communication open. As of now, $85,000 has been included in the 2000 budget for the DCA, but its methods of allocation have not. Nor do they have to be included until December, when the final budget is finalized.

Council member at-large Dick Chaffee hopes the DCA will move to City Hall.

"Two talented people coming on board at City Hall would be a real plus," he said, as discussions drew to a close Monday. "George (Brophy) working independently with the DCA as he’s always done, but being close and available to city officials, would seem to me a very legitimate way for this partnership to continue. It could be good for the DCA, the Port Authority and the city."

This morning, Brophy and members of the DCA’s executive board met to discuss changes in the DCA’s focus – including a look at a role as facilitator/coordinator in workforce development – as well as the city’s proposal.

"On financial topics we’ll continue to proceed to talk with the city," Brophy said. "You could say we’ve been awakened by the challenges coming from our colleagues at the city – we want to serve the city but we also want to serve the business development issues in the area."