During the month of May, community members joined with Conversation Corps to discuss budget priorities for the City of Austin, Capital Metro and Austin ISD. Participants were asked to prioritize a list of budget items, and then conversation hosts led each group through a discussion about what factored into the prioritizations chosen. Read more background information here.
Conversation Feedback Summary
Many groups found prioritizing budget items to be very challenging and agreed that discussing each individual item in isolation from the others was almost impossible. From housing growth and transit services to teacher compensation and equitable services for all income levels, participants navigated the complexities of an interwoven budget ecosystem.
When discussing the City of Austin budget, priority for streets and infrastructure, especially maintenance, was consistently a high priority. Health and housing was important to most, as was Public Safety and Water. Many agreed that infrastructure has to be in place to support our region’s growth and the housing and traffic challenges incurred by it. Opinions differed around the concepts of density.
In regards to Capital Metro’s budget, many participants were in agreement about the need for more affordable, efficient and convenient bus systems. The quality of the bus riding experience was repeatedly addressed, namely in improving bus stops. Prioritization of more frequent service, more late-night service and adding park and rides was also common among discussions throughout town. Also discussed were priority lanes for buses to be taken out of regular traffic and wanting to increase access to the bus by the demographics that need it the most. Some areas of town did not feel as though the Capital Metro portion of the conversation was applicable to them, given the lack of public transportation options where the live.
Discussion of AISD priorities focused greatly on the support of teachers and the impact that prioritizing things such as teach compensation can have on the quality of teachers and the learning experience for students. Most conversations also highlighted the importance of full-day pre-k and academic support for struggling schools. School choice and equitable opportunities for students were themes that emerged from conversations and resulted in questions such as: why is there a difference between the qualities of teachers in AISD compared to charter schools? While some participants didn’t feel the AISD budget was pertinent to them because they either don’t have school-aged children or live in a different school district, others found relevancy to broader community goals. Several people wanted more information about how funding impacts students and wanted clarification on issues such as recapture.