Let’s vote FOR the Audit, based on the MERITS, not against from a concocted narrative of suspicion, disparagement, partisanship and divisiveness.
Proposition ‘K’, a common sense audit, supported by over 32,000 Austin voters, is being demonized and twisted into a partisan issue by a small, politically influential cabal.
Critics have no tangible support for their claims, such claims are biased speculation. Shouldn’t we give the audit a chance before criticizing and condemning it? All we taxpayers are demanding is to learn where our escalating property taxes and fees are going and how to use them to our greatest benefit.
The unfounded attacks on the audit and its supporters are disturbing. Austin values diversity, acceptance and tolerance, except when it comes to politics. Civility and benefit of doubt are jettisoned for prejudice and suspicion. We’re better than that. Did it occur to these “glass half empty” critics, that it’s a sincere, well-intended proposal to improve our city?
The principal PAC pushing “dark money” allegations is itself, neck deep in a “dark money” scheme. A City employee union to PAC1, PAC1 to PAC2, shell game accounts for over 70% of their funding on the latest reports. I spoke with the chief auditors in states opponents said were “damaged” by the audits. Without exception, they repudiated the criticism and spoke positively of the savings and benefits. A city plagued by escalating taxes, rents and unaffordability, should employ every tool. Our new City Manager increased discretionary spending in his proposed budget, let’s hope he will find some savings too, however we should trust and verify. Doing nothing, as some suggest, yields nothing.
Austin has never had a comprehensive, independent, efficiency audit. The City of Austin has an audit unit that validates its accounting, regulatory compliance and does some investigative work. However a fully independent, outside efficiency audit is something completely different. AISD routinely uses outside, independent audits to find improvement. Think of it as a medical second opinion for a massive tumor of spending, spending of our rising property taxes. This audit will be under local control of the Mayor and Council, who hires the auditors and approves their recommendations. A population/utility adjusted comparison of Austin’s ($4.1 billion) 2019 budget to our sister city San Antonio ($2.8 billion), reveals Austin spends hundreds of millions more. San Antonio has a larger service area, more emergency service demand, more minorities, children, elderly and greater poverty. Since 2014, both cities grew 5-6%, however Austin’s budget increased 24.5% while San Antonio’s increased 17%. When you’re speaking in billions, that’s significant. According to the Texas Tribune, Austin has TWICE the City employees per citizen that San Antonio has, with a median salary over $10,000 higher! Somehow San Antonio manages to have less traffic congestion, less affordability issues and spend less money.
A massive leak in our city spending isn’t being caught by existing methods, let’s get to the bottom of it. Some claim the City has fiscal restraint; but does it? It has quietly exploited increasing property values to impose annual stealth tax increases. Appraised values rose 11% this year, Austin’s tax rate lowered 1%. The City is currently busy hiring high priced lobbyists to fight homeowner and renter protecting, state property tax controls.
The Texas Bond Review Board’s latest data show Austin’s existing debt repayment amount is over $10,000 per citizen! That does not include County, Central Health, CapMetro, ACC or AISD debt. Yet, Austin is again proposing a massive borrowing measure; largely for wants, not needs. You’re told the cost for this borrowing is two cents per hundred dollars of value. That claim is disputed by the City’s own legally required 3.009 bond financial impact disclosure that shows FIVE TIMES that amount. This huge discrepancy breeds mistrust, a ‘second opinion’ audit helps restore it.
Roger Falk, TCTU Analyst