Mayor Phil Goff wants to pump an extra $5 million into the Auckland City Mission, to help with the construction costs of its new building on Hobson St.
That building, to be called HomeGround, will contain accommodation, health services and community facilities. Demolition of the old City Mission buildings has already begun.
"There has been a massive growth of homelessness on our streets," said Goff. "We've helped fund the Housing First programme that has put 700 formerly homeless people into a home in the last 18 months, but there is a lot more to do."
He added, "To my knowledge this is one of the largest single grants to any organisation of that nature in a similar period."
Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly said the City Mission was "deeply grateful".
"Our HomeGround development is an initiative unlike anything else seen before in New Zealand," he said, adding that the building would be "a purpose-built, safe space to stand against homelessness, hunger and poor health. Offering pragmatic, hands-on services and support to help those who need it most, this $90 million project will be a legacy for Auckland. The HomeGround development has been a long-held vision for the Mission and this $5 million funding proposal shows great leadership."
That $5m is the only new item in Goff's proposed Auckland Council budget for 2019-20, announced today. The council will debate the budget in the coming months.
Goff has signalled an additional "savings target" of $23m in the budget, which is the last he will be in charge of in his first term as mayor.
The savings are in operating expenditure and will come from "smarter procurement", including IT investment, and "automation" of some administration services, according to the council's general manager of financial strategy and planning, Ross Tucker.
Asked if that means job losses, Goff said a sinking lid policy was preferred and he was not aware that any specific jobs had been identified. "The council's staffing costs have been going down each year over the previous year," he said.
Ross said there were "no targets".
The $23m in new savings follows another $23m that is being saved in the current financial year. A further $16m is scheduled to be saved in the 2020/21 year.
All those savings are in operating expenditure and are permanent. The cumulative saving over the period of the council's current 10-year budget will be $565m.
Goff said that would represent a saving of 4 per cent "by the end of next year". During the 2016 election campaign, Goff promised to make savings of 3-6 per cent.
He also promised to limit rates increases to an average 2.5 per cent. The budget proposal announced yesterday holds to that promise in relation to general rates. As Goff noted, though, Aucklanders are also paying a regional fuel tax and targeted rates to improve water services and safeguard the environment.
Goff said he believed 2.5 per cent was "the lowest rate increase of any New Zealand city".
A spokesperson for the mayor said the average Auckland property is now worth $1.08m and attracts general rates of $2578, or $49.58 per week. The average increase is $1.38 per week.
The targeted rates are set amounts and will not increase.
Under the Super City structure, the office of the mayor is responsible for producing budgets, which are then debated and approved by the governing body of the council. In June this year the governing body signed off on the council's 10-year budget.
This 2019-20 budget contains the details of the second year of that 10-year budget.
Among those details, Goff said he was "especially pleased about the ongoing improvements to water quality, including the four beaches on the Manukau Harbour that we have reopened for swimming after being unsafe for decades".
He also mentioned moves to make Waiheke Island "the largest predator-free island in the world", work on the new rapid transit Eastern Busway, which has been brought forward, and the million trees programme.
"I expect to be planting the millionth new tree in Auckland during Matariki next June," he said.
Other significant budget items include $200,000 to combat illegal dumping.
Council staff will all be paid a living wage from September 1, 2019. Goff said he had "asked for work to commence" on how that policy might be extended to council contractors, but there is no budget allocation for that.
He thought cleaners in the council building might have a good case for a living wage. He declined to comment on bus drivers.
The proposed budget comprises $4.2 billion of operational expenditure and $2.5b of capital expenditure for the year. Goff said that was the council's "largest ever capital expenditure".
An additional $700m will be borrowed, bringing total debt to 260 per cent of revenue. That's close to the council's 270 per cent debt ceiling.
Goff said the council had made a small reduction in its reliance on rates, including the targeted rates, by increasing revenue from other streams.
Although no changes are proposed overall to the 10-year budget, several major contracts for the City Rail Link are currently out to tender. Council officers have noted that when tender documents arrive in early 2019 there will be "increased certainty around cost projection".
Goff added that there was "no clarity yet" about how the Government's plan to create a new housing and Urban Development Authority might affect council spending.