Council: Should city maintain Vision 2020 projects?

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Austin City Council is starting to publicly ponder a big Vision 2020 question: Who will run many of the community projects that are scheduled for completion by 2020?

The council discussed several options to potentially maintain and fund projects scheduled by the community improvement initiative Vision 2020 at its council retreat Tuesday night at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Among the biggest unanswerable questions was how the city would decide what to pay for, and where the city could get the money.

Council Member Roger Boughton advocated for a Local Option Sales Tax, similar to the one in place to pay for Austin’s flood mitigation efforts by 2027 or until the flood projects are completed. Boughton also advocated for a gradual tax increase over the next few years to build funding for Vision 2020 maintenance costs.

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“We can still start raising our taxes gradually to help pay for these projects,” Boughton said.

At issue is how much the city can afford to spend to help build and maintain projects like a community recreation center, or a city-wide fiber optics data network, or whether the city even wants to get involved in such projects as other community organizations could spearhead them.

Vision 2020 organizers and members of The Hormel Foundation will likely spend more than $100 million in improvements to Austin over the next few years, Mayor Tom Stiehm said.

“It’s a complex issue,” he said.

The council took no action, but told Vision 2020’s director of creative vision Laura Helle they would like to meet with Vision 2020 organizers in a few months to start conversations on the city’s role in Vision 2020 projects after they’re completed.