A bill geared toward local property tax relief may threaten Austin’s commitment to its no-kill policy.
Senate Bill 2 proposes a 2.5% local property tax revenue cap, which could send the City of Austin into a $51.7 million deficit in the next three years, according to a resolution the City Council passed last Thursday.
“The City Council of the City of Austin believes that the 2.5% revenue cap proposed by House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 represents an impending crisis,” the resolution said.
In 2010, Austin implemented a No-Kill Implementation Plan that requires the Austin Animal Center, which is government-funded, to maintain a 90% live release rate. This initiative makes Austin the largest no-kill city in the U.S., according to the Center. At a Council meeting on March 28, the City formally expressed its support for the Center’s goal of a 95% or higher live release rate.
“If our Legislature is to pass (SB 2), the trajectory will take (the city) into a deficit,” said Kimberly McNeely, interim chief of Animal Services, at the Austin Animal Advisory Commission meeting on April 8. “With that being said, there is not a whole lot of maneuvering in the current budget … to ask for additional funding.”
However, maintaining the no-kill status with quality care will require significant resources, said Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin District 1 city councilwoman, at the City Council meeting.
“We have to make sure that staff and volunteers have the resources that they need and the support that they need,” Harper-Madison said.
Thus, the addition of SB 2 may hurt the prospects of the no-kill policy, said Caleb Pritchard, communications and policy aide for Austin’s District 1 office.
“We hope that revenue cap bill does not pass as it is,” Pritchard said. “We will have to face a lot of tough decisions about priorities. The no-kill policy may have to be one of those programs we must seriously consider on whether or not we can afford to keep it.”
Volunteers expressed concerns about the overcrowding of animals at the Center due to the no-kill policy at the City Council meeting.
“(The policy) is a goal without a plan,” volunteer David Loignon said. “If Austin wants to post a billboard that says that we are the nation’s no-kill leader, then it’s time we pay for it … it’s time everyone in Austin participated.”