Council forms committee to address affordability issues

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In their first official council meeting Thursday, the newly-elected group looked for ways to restructure council meetings to make them more effective way for the public to be involved.  They also dove into the issue of affordability.

In a 10-1 vote, they approved the creation of a regional ‘Affordability Committee.’

“The main goal is to perfect positive policy that directly effects affordability,” said District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, who sponsored the agenda item. “For example, an issue that could come up is the homestead exemption, which would impact your property taxes. CapMetro is also representative on the board. CapMetro affects fare prices and that affects your affordability.”

The committee will be made of representatives from the Austin City Council, Austin Independent School District, Travis County Commissioners Court, Austin Community College, Capital Metro, Central Health, Del Valle ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Williamson County Commissioners Court, Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD.

“The goal is to bring all these tax entities together and have real policy discussion and hopefully create great policies,” explained Garza.

But not every council member agreed. District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman voted against the committee.

“Right now it’s 11 in favor of raising taxes, none in favor of lowering taxes. To me it’s a little bit ridiculous,” said Zimmerman, adding the committee isn’t balanced. He would like to see taxpayer advocacy groups like the Travis County Taxpayers Union at the table with the school districts and government entities.

“If I could get 11 things like the Travis County Taxpayers to balance out 11 government entities that profit from higher taxes, I would vote for it because it would be balanced,” said Zimmerman.

Garza said she understands where Zimmerman is coming from but said, “We’re all taxpayer advocates. That’s why I ran for council, to advocate for the taxpayers.”

Council Members Ann Kitchen and Ellen Troxclair are the other council members that will sit on the committee.

Garza said the main goal is to improve communication between the local governments. The group believes there is limited coordination with all the taxing agencies when it comes to bond proposals.  They also want to have more public meetings where people can address all of those agencies at once.

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