AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council has less than a month to iron out the budget for 2016 and advocates for non-profit organizations are urging council members to increase funds for Austin Heath and Human Services.
“We’re watching the city budget very closely,” said Dan Pruett, President and Ceo of Meals on Wheels and More. “I know here at Meals on Wheels and More we get funding from different sources, but that city funding is very important. It needs to reflect the changes, the demographic changes, the increase in the number of people in poverty and the need in this community.”
Volunteers with Meal on Wheels and More operates on a $10.5 million budget. Volunteers deliver meals to about 5,000 people a year which costs $2,100 a person.The organization said the goal is to not only feed the elderly and disabled, but keep them living independently.
“It’s incredibly important that we see an increase from the city and the social service funding the health and human service funding for non-profits serving people in need,” said Pruett. “We’re hoping for an increase in funding, I think the budget as it’s presented now is kind of flat, flat funding, but if you look at the need look at the increase of need in this community, flat funding really doesn’t cut it.”
I think the funding has increased a bit over the years, but it hasn’t increased dramatically even though many us feel there’s been a dramatic increase in the need,” said Dan Pruett, President & CEO of with Meals on Wheels and More.
City staff and departments are making their presentations for their budgets and recommendations and learning different options, what they cost and what they save. The budget goes into effect October 1.
Non-profit groups said they’re looking for more funding and don’t believe the city is keeping up with the growth in social services.
“We need additional funding to fund programs around this community that serve people who are poor and need our help and support,” said Pruett.
It’s a plea non-profits are asking city council to consider in the up coming budget. A group called One Voice, which represents 85 non-profit agencies across the city, said Austin doesn’t spend as much as it should on Health and Human Services.
“When you look at the safety net and the funding of non-profits, it’s a great quilting of resources and the city is a piece of that, I’m not sure how we’ve gotten away with doing so little, but we can’t keep doing that,” said Ann Howard, Vice-Chair of One Voice and Executive Director of Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).
Howard said she believes the Health and Human Services department has been over looked in the past years. She said while non-profits do a great job of leveraging those dollars with state, federal and philanthropic dollars, but the city funds are a safety net.
One Voice said from 2005 – 2015 the City of Austin Health and Human Services budget has only increased 20 percent compared to 270 percent increase for libraries, and 273 percent increase for Parks and Recreation.
Howard said last year the city agreed to a budget policy to increase Austin’s investment in Health and Human Services by $6.7 million by FY2016. This would be part of a plan to catch up $28 million to bring the Health and Human Services budget up to part with the need in the community.
“We can tell just by looking that Health and Human Services are underfunded,” said Howard. She said the city asked them to look into the budget or the bast 20 years in Health and Human Services department. Howard said the budget has gone from $55 million to $65 million in 20 years, which she said is less compared to other departments which have increased in funding by 200 percent.
“We listen to the need for books and we listen to the need for new kennels for pets to keep up with the growing population, well people are more important that pets and books at the end of the day,” said Howard. “We’ve got people living in terrible conditions, we’ve got children who can’t get to school and we need to address these issues.”
Mayor Steve Adler said he’s keeping many groups concerns in mind as the new council gets ready to approve the budget.
“I think that social service funding in the city needs to be increased we have an incredibly strong economy things are going so well in so many places and with that strength we need to make sure the opportunities are shared,” said Mayor Steve Adler.
He said council is in the process of going through the budget and trying to find areas the city can be more efficient in and programs that may have out lived their “usefulness.”
“The council understands and takes very seriously the affordability issues that so many in our community are facing, so there’s a delicate balance of trying and we need to make this budget more affordable for the citizens and at the same time take care of the things we need to take care of,” said Mayor Adler.
He said there are lots of groups weighing in and wished there was money in the budget for everyone, but there isn’t. Mayor Adler said they’ll have to make tough choices and set priories as a council and have to learn for next year when they have their first full year ends up with a process with an even better process.
- August 20th and 27th community testimony on current budget proposal
- Sept 1st council will start negotiating among each other other
- Set the budget the week of Sept. 8th
- Budget goes into effect Oct. 1
“I think the budget process is hard because a budget is all about making hard choices, but a budget reflects our values so the process in that respect is happening the way it should,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “As a practical matter, I think there are things we can do to make the budget process more deliberative and more thoughtful.”
Adler said they hope to launch a program next year to have a sunset review of city programs so they can make sure what they spend money on is something, even that year they know they want to continue spending money on.