Online tool puts Austin budget in your hands

City budget simulator (KXAN Photo/ Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin has launched a website that lets you tell city leaders how you want them to spend your tax dollars and how your choices would affect your tax bill.

“What we hope citizens get out of it is a sense of how difficult it is to balance the budget. What we want to do is put them in the same seat, the same situation the city manager or the city council are in,” said Edward Van Eenoo, deputy CFO for the City of Austin.

The online budget simulator lets you decide whether you want to spend more on police, or less on libraries etc.  But it also drills down to programs within those departments. In the end, it shows you how much more or less you’d have to pay in taxes.

“You get that immediate connection between ‘Well, if we want to spend 5 percent or 10 percent more on police protection, there’s going to be a cost associated with that and that cost is going to impact your tax bills,'” says Van Eenoo.

Austin CFX talks to KXAN's John Dabkovich about budget simulator (KXAN Photo/ Frank Martinez)
Austin CFX talks to KXAN’s John Dabkovich about budget simulator (KXAN Photo/ Frank Martinez)

The new budget tool is considered an improvement on the Budget in a Box launched by the city last year. It also allowed people to choose between spending more on department and less on another, but unlike the budget simulator, it did not let users choose between individual services offered by those departments.

You can try the budget simulator by clicking here.

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