Council talks early 9 pct. 2017 levy hike; Hike would mean tax increase for homeowners

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, August 16, 2016



The city of Austin is in the early stages of discussing a 9 percent levy increase for its 2017 budget, which could mean an additional $30 to $40 a year for an average home’s taxes.

Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert led Austin City Council members through the early factors and needs driving the 2017 city budget during a work session Monday night. The council needs to approve its maximum levy increase by Sept. 30 before holding the annual truth in taxation meeting and approving the final budget in December.

Dankert said the goal was to keep city services the same in 2017 as in ’16. That made for the 9 percent increase, which will increase the levy by $441,000 to about $5.3 million.

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The city is set to receive about $7.9 million in local government aid in 2017, but it could receive an additional $164,000 if a special session is called for the Legislature to finish the tax and bonding bills.

“There is some good news coming if we can get that in there,” Dankert said.

Usually, new construction and growth accounts for 2 to 3 percent of the annual tax levy increase, so Dankert estimated the net effect of the 9 percent increase would be closer to a 6 or 7 percent.

Salary increases are a big driving factor in the budget, and the council discussed some potential new positions.

The council voted 4-2 to convert the Austin Fire Department’s administrative assistant from 20 to 40 hours a week, which will cost $35,000. That will be paid by reducing the city’s contingency budget from $150,000 to $115,0000 for 2017.

The administrative assistant currently splits time between the fire department and public works, but the change will mean public works will hire a part-time employee.

The council discussed adding a full-time building maintenance worker to oversee building maintenance at all city buildings, but council members favor adding the position either in 2018 or if the additional $164,000 in LGA is added in a special session.

The council voted to allocate the same amount of money to outside agencies in 2017 as it did in 2016, with the exception of removing a one-time allocation to the Mower County Historical Society in ’16.

The Austin Area Commission for the Arts asked for $25,000 in support, but the council opted against it.

All decisions made Monday still need to be voted on in a full council meeting.