Budget-in-a-Box Results Now Available in FY 2015-16 Public Engagement Report!Citizen Feedback Guiding Proposed City Service Enhancements
We have exciting news: the FY 2015-16 Public Engagement Report is now available on Austin Finance Online!
Thanks to Austin residents like you, this year we have received record levels of community feedback on City services and residents’ budget priorities. This feedback is documented in detail in the Public Engagement Report, which is available to the public at Austin Finance Online and includes:
• Analysis of Budget-in-a-Box results,
• Summaries of 17 Boards and Commissions meetings,
• Over 500 transcribed comments from Budget-in-a-Box participants, and
• Results from the 2014 Austin Community Survey.
Budget-in-a-Box was the focal point of this year’s budget engagement process, and the Public Engagement Report presents detailed analysis of the results from the exercise. In total, 80 groups participated this year in the Budget-in-a-Box group activity and 1,577 individuals participated online using the Budget-in-a-Box web app. In the exercise, participants chose funding priorities for eight City service areas, either increasing funding by 5%, maintaining the current funding level, or decreasing funding by 5%. Report highlights of Budget-in-a-Box results include:
• In the areas of Streets and Infrastructure, Parks and Libraries, and Health and Housing the majority of participants chose to increase funding by 5%.
• In the areas of Emergency Response, Clean Community, Water, and Energy the majority of participants chose to keep the current funding level.
• In the area of Planning and Economic Development there was no majority decision, but the most common funding choice was to keep the current funding level.
• In no service category was the most commonly preferred choice to decrease funding.
• In total, the majority of participants (58%) chose to increase the average resident’s annual combined tax and utility bill, currently estimated as $3,872 per year. Total bill amounts ranged from $3,677 to $4,065.
Investing in Services
The FY 2015-16 proposed Budget presented to the City Council last week takes steps to address the service area feedback received from residents. Streets and Infrastructure was the area in which the most participants chose to increase funding. The proposed budget takes steps to address Streets and Infrastructure services by proposing 12 new positions along with $15.1 million dollars in planned capital improvements for transportation and mobility. To address residents’ concerns about infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclers, $45.7 million is proposed in planned capital improvements for street, bridge, sidewalk and trail improvements.
The proposed Budget also includes funding for new positions and capital improvements for Parks and Libraries and Health and Housing, two of the City service areas in which a majority of participants chose to increase funding. For the Library, an additional $2.3 million in funding is proposed to support 48.25 new positions, operations and maintenance expenses, and one-time relocation costs to support the New Central Library, which will open in November 2016. Many of the services allocated to the main library will also positively impact branch locations; however, the budget also includes funds specifically for branch library materials and expansion of check-out technology.
Additionally, a $0.8 million increase is proposed for the Parks and Recreation Department budget to fund 11 positions to support recreation center programming, park maintenance, and the park ranger program. In the area of Health and Housing, funding is proposed to make five grant-funded positions permanent and $740,000 is allocated for social service contracts to provide rental assistance for dislocated families.
City of Austin Budget Office
301 W. Willie Nelson Blvd. | Austin, TX 78701