Proposition A Faces Scrutiny for Potential Impacts on City Budget
By Jack Starks
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – With early voting in Austin beginning Oct. 18 ahead of the Nov. 2 general election, debate over Proposition A is increasing.
The proposition would restore funding pulled from the Austin Police Department and reallocated last year, but critics call it an irresponsible use of the city’s budget.
“Who is Prop A going to benefit,” asked Jill Nokes, an Austin resident.
“It’s not the people of Austin, because of the way it will just decimate the city budget.”
She expressed concern that by losing public services, Austin may lose the community its residents have grown to love.
“The things that keep us together as a community, content, happy and interacting with each other, those don’t happen accidently,” Nokes said.
“They are fostered and nurtured by libraries, parks, clinics, free lunch, rec centers, and sufficient firefighters and EMS workers.”
Prop A will appear on the ballot after more than 25,000 Austin residents signed a petition in support of the initiative created by Save Austin Now, a local political action committee, with the goal of reinstating $150 million dollars cut from APD in 2020.
The proposition will, over a five-year period, increase APD’s budget back to $300 million.
“We’re not asking for more police,” said Cleo Petricek, the co-founder of Save Austin Now. “We’re asking for the nationally accepted standard of safe cities.”
Petricek said the safe cities standard is based on studies claiming that two police officers for every 1,000 residents is an ideal minimum for policing. Austin currently has 1.7 officers per 1,000 residents.
Austin Police Department statistics showed there were 44 homicides from January through July 2021 after 48 homicides in all of 2020.
Save Austin Now’s leadership said an increased police presence can cut down on this increase in crime.
“We all want a safe city. We all want to raise our families. We want to be able to walk to class, not be accosted and know that if we call the police, they’re going to come in a timely manner” Petricek said.
Prop A is an unfunded mandate. If approved by voters, the money needed to support the proposition would have to be raised from taxes or taken from the city’s existing budget.
According to the City of Austin’s Financial Services Department, the proposition could pull almost $120 million out of the city’s budget each year.
No Way Prop A, a group organized against the proposition, is concerned the initiative will take funding away from other public services like the Austin Fire Department, Austin-Travis County EMS and the Austin Public Library.
Nate Ryan, the commissioner of the City of Austin’s Economic Prosperity Commission, said the proposition is financially irresponsible.
“The bottom line is anything that voters vote to add to a budget, that’s not already part of an adopted budget, is going to mean either raising taxes or cutting other services,” Ryan said.