Settling for the housing allowance

Lots of Austinites would be happy to have a housing allowance, especially such a generous one. Buried in the article on the new city manager in today’s local daily (“With new job, Ott keeps a vow,” byline Sarah Coppola; the on-line title of the article, probably updated since the print edition went to press, is “New city manager says he’s got dream job“) is the salary offered and accepted ($242,000) and the fact that there’s to be a housing allowance “of up to $4,500 per month for up to nine months.” The salary (probably without including such perquisites as car allowances) stated for outgoing manager Futrell is $240,639.

I wish that the article had answered some questions. Does Austin expect that a city manager will need to rent something for $4,500 per month? What is Ott’s salary in Fort Worth? What were the Austin in-house candidates earning as assistant city managers? Was this the salary and housing allowance to be offered to all candidates? Or only to the two finalists? When was this deal negotiated? How does this housing allowance compare (if drawn for nine months, the total would be $40,500) with household average and median income, and also with housing expense, for an Austin family of four? Is this housing allowance a common feature of compensation packages for city managers of municipalities the size of Austin? Is it offered in this case because of the state of the market for existing houses? The Tarrant Appraisal District appears to report that our new city manager now owns a 2002-built property with over 3,100 square feet of improvements, appraised at $255,100 and sitting on real property appraised at $55,000 (total appraised value $310,500). Where would anyone find a parcel of land of any size here in Austin valued at $55,000 or lower these days? Or with the appraised value of the land remaining flat for five years in a row?

I don’t have time to look into some of the information that must be available on line (e.g., the Austin budget front page is not especially seeker-friendly and it gets worse after that). There must be plenty of other questions out there and I wish that a professional info-finder would track down answers to the questions posed here and to all the others that easily come to mind.

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