Many of the budget increases include hiring 24 new police officers and buying 61 new cruisers. The city has also factored in the increased price of fuel, and is trying to tackle raising gas prices.Austin's $25 million budget shortfall stems almost entirely from decisions four years ago to lavish vast raises on Austin police in their latest contract that made them the most highly paid officers in the nation. As I wrote in June:
Bottom line: Austin needed more officers over this period, but the council caved in to union demands to dramatically boost pay for those already on the force and fill gaps with overtime. That made it financially impossible to hire uniformed cops in the numbers the city should have and squeezed out other budget priorities.The city will pay for the extra costs in this budget by closing library branches one day per week and raising fees for utilities and garbage pickup.
Myself and many others told the Austin City Council before they made these decisions in no uncertain terms that this would be the outcome - a bloated budget dominated by public safety costs that still doesn't put enough officers on the street. Now that those financial chickens have come home to roost, the city council is scurrying to identify someone, anyone else to blame when all they really need are mirrors - at least for the Mayor and others who were there at the time. Just pitiful.