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Proposed budget calls for property tax hike, more city positions

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TWC News: Proposed budget calls for property tax hike, more city positions
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During a work session Tuesday, the Austin City Council reviewed its latest budget proposal for next year.

Under the proposal, the average Austin homeowner will pay $217 dollars more a year, which includes added fees for city services like power, water and trash.

Property taxes alone will increase about $20.

"I would like to stay as close to a no tax increase scenario as I possibly can, realizing there are some real hard drivers in there," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said.

Leffingwell says one of those drivers includes capping how much money the city can take from Austin Energy's profits for the next three years.

However, city salaries remain the biggest expense.

"That's where most of the costs come from. Eighty-percent plus of the budget is personnel costs,” Mayor Leffingwell said. “That's what the city does. It delivers services, and that involves people."

City leaders plan to create as many as 157 new positions next year, including 43 new first responders.

They also want to add 19 positions to code compliance--eight of them would form a team dedicated to inspecting apartments and condos, hoping to prevent a repeat of the problems at Wood Ridge Apartments in Southeast Austin.

"We want it to be in a financial condition that is going to be sustainable long-term, not just short-term fixes," City Manager Marc Ott said.

Ott says the proposed hires make up for almost all of the 178 positions vacated over the past three years, but they won't necessarily be the same jobs the city had before due to regular audits of each department.

The proposed budget also includes a 3 percent pay increase for all city employees. Uniform employees also received a 3 percent pay raise the previous two years.

Civilian employees received a 2.5 percent increase in fiscal year 2011, and a 2 percent increase this fiscal year.

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