City eyes help with exploding SXSW security budget

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The South by Southwest festival may be an economic gold mine for the city, but it also comes with some costs. At least one city councilman wants to explore ways the city can help pay for a surging security budget for the event.

“The security budget for South by Southwest has absolutely exploded,” said District 6 representative Don Zimmerman. “It has gone from tens of thousands to $1.5 million in the past 10 or 15 years.”

The 2014 SXSW crash led to a closer look at crowd security, but Zimmerman said the cost of keeping festival-goers safe was soaring even before the tragedy. At Monday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, an agenda item called to explore funding options to help foot the bill. One possible avenue according to Zimmerman is the use of the Hotel Occupancy Tax.

“Hotels get a boon of business. For the people that are getting direct profits; let us let them incur some of the direct costs.”

The Austin Police Department presented reports concerning the cost of security at Monday’s meeting. APD Assistant Chief Brian Manley said the biggest strain on department resources comes from manpower needed to man barricades. At SXSW 2015, APD officers logged 15,788 hours staffed with 5,698 of those hours being overtime.

The committee also inquired about South by Southwest’s contribution to the cost of security. A SXSW representative said the event already spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in private security for festival events and has brought in crowd control experts to work with the city to provide safe environments.

 

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