AUSTIN (KXAN) – City Manager Spencer Cronk proposes a $ 442 million budget for the Austin Police Department for next year, a record high.
It comes after more than a year of local debate about the role of the police in public safety and how much money APD should receive.
MORE: Austin’s proposed budget includes $ 65 million for combating homelessness and $ 79 million for affordable housing
The proposed grand total is $ 10 million more than APD’s budget for the 2019-20 period. It includes funding for two additional cadet classes. After reviewing the department’s education and culture, the city resumed cadet classes in June with a new revised curriculum.
BACKGROUND: Austin City Council approves continuation of the “reinvented” cadet class, starting June 7th
“I am definitely glad that the budget is the way it is,” said Joseph Chacon, interim head of the APD.
Last summer, following local protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos, the Austin City Council agreed to endorse part of APD funds to other areas such as Austin-Travis County EMS, a shelter for family violence, on a permanent basis Redirect housing and staff development.
The plan was also to eventually remove the 911 center and forensic laboratory from APD’s control and budget. But the 911 center and forensics lab won’t be moving out of the APD anytime soon due to the state’s new law going into effect in September.
Passed by state lawmakers and signed by Governor Greg Abbott, HB 1900 enables Texas to punish large cities that cut police funding by capping property taxes in those cities, deducting sales tax revenue, or revoking powers of annexation. Cronk confirmed the reality in announcing the budget proposal on Friday.
“The aim is to maintain the independence of some of these areas and to keep the momentum of our redesign of public safety work,” said Cronk. “But we know that we have to adhere to HB 1900, and we will.”
Proponents of an independent forensic laboratory say it allows for better visibility and monitoring of critical DNA evidence. Quality issues were found at APD’s old crime lab – thousands of rape kits were behind schedule and a number of cases, possibly hundreds, were mishandled.
In May, the police informed us that the separate forensic department, which reports directly to the city director’s office, would be set up by July 1. Abbott then signed HB into law in 1900.
“Our top scientists, police and victim attorneys have all said it is the right thing to have an independent forensic laboratory, so we will keep fighting for it,” said Greg Casar, Austin city council member who represents District 4.
Under the new law, the “definition of local government” will be determined by comparing the money and staff spent on law enforcement in a city’s budget with that of the previous year. Austin will not lose the money diverted to EMS, the family home for violence, and other services as it is offset by rising police salaries, pensions, and other benefits.