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Prop 16: Public Safety

KUT News

Seven bond spending propositions are included among the 18 propositions Austin voters will decide on this fall. KUT News is reporting on all seven of the bond propositions, which together are worth $385 million; today we take a look at Prop 16, which would allow the city to spend $31 million on public safety projects.

The money would go toward police, fire and emergency medical services. But some critics contend it’s not enough to cover Austin’s public safety needs. Austin Public Safety Commission vice chair Mike Levy says Austin’s number one need didn’t get included on the proposition.

“There’s a huge deficit, not including a new fire station in the very-high-risk 360 corridor,” Levy said. “The Public Safety Commission has said that the biggest risk facing Austin is wild land fire. “

Levy says the population has grown significantly in that part of town, and emergency response times are slow. The proposed improvements on Prop 16 do include a new Onion Creek Fire and EMS Station, fire department renovations and ambulance bay expansions and new police substations and facilities. But Levy says  the bond missed an important APD need.

“The other major deficit in the bond package for public safety is there is no money for a new police headquarters,” Levy said. “The one at Eighth Street and the interstate is about 40 years old. “

Austin Police Assistant Chief Sean Mannix says the bond’s facilities shortcomings go beyond a new headquarters.

“Well, we started out the process with identified facilities needs that exceeded $100 million,” Mannix said. “So we’re obviously not getting everything that was identified by the Police Department as being necessary for our growth.“

But in order to not raise property taxes, the City Council whittled down the agency requests to the final $31 million. Mannix says the agency would like more, but will make do with what they get.

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