Council discusses Welcome Center funding increase

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Austin City Council has a choice: double the Welcome Center of Austin’s funding in light of increasing need, or let the Welcome Center’s funding stay at $5,000 in 2015.

Council members are considering an increase to $10,000 in funding for the Welcome Center next year after Executive Director Jake Vela told the council on Monday how Welcome Center staff have been taxed with more requests for services for new residents.

Last year, Welcome Center staff helped more than 1,200 Asian residents with language services, financial planning services, English language learning classes and more. That’s a 164 percent increase from the previous year, according to Vela.

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“Staff members are working with more than 110 relocated Karen families to Austin,” Vela said.

The Welcome Center employs four people in total and offers services in about six languages to help new residents get settled in the community.

Council members didn’t make a decision on the increase during their work session Monday, but could seriously consider an increase as the council decides on the 2015 city budget and tax levy.

The council is looking to increase the city’s tax levy by 4.98 percent in 2015 to add 1.5 new jobs, cover increasing costs and maintain services.

City officials are looking to increase the city budget by $205,000 to help pay for a new full-time librarian and to move a part-time building inspector position up to full time.

The city of Austin has cut staff from about 180 positions in the 1980s to about 139 positions this year, about two positions annually over the past 25 or so years. Yet recent retirements and other vacancies have forced city staff to look at Austin’s operations.