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Ballot, Bond and Budget: City Council’s Busy Week

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council kicks off another three-fer this week – two work sessions and a full Thursday meeting – that will set the ballot for November’s city charter and bond elections.

Today, the council holds a work session previewing its Thursday meeting. But also on the agenda are several items pertaining to this November’s election. One item would let voters approve terms under which the city could sell or lease portions of Austin Energy properties, like the utility’s stake in the coal-burning Fayette Power Plant. That initiative has already received two affirmative votes, so only one more vote is required to add the measure to the crowded November ballot.

Another item would place a charter amendment on the ballot authorizing the council to create an independent board to oversee city-owned utilities such as Austin Energy. No vote has been taken on the measure yet, and with council member Bill Spelman’s potentially decisive vote absent from the dais, it’s uncertain whether the council is ready to approve the item.

Also posted for action today is an item setting the November bond election. At council’s work session last week, discussion focused on the overall amount of the bond package. The amount the city could spend on projects without a tax increase in $385 million, and some council members, most notably Mayor Lee Leffingwell, adamantly objected to going beyond that number.

Council member Mike Martinez, who previously entertained the motion of going beyond that figure, will offer his own $385 million package. It would fully fund some of the projects cut from City Manager Marc Ott’s proposal, including money for the expansion of Austin Studios and the Mexic-Arte Museum, plus the 51st Street Vision Plan, the Violet Crown Trail and more.

The work session begins at 9 a.m. Interested? You can watch the meeting online.

Wednesday’s work session will focus on the city budget and setting a maximum proposed property tax rate for next year.

And during Thursday’s regular meeting, council members are set to take up items including adding another weekend to Austin City Limits Music Festival and approving a new music festival to coincide with November’s Formula 1 race.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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