City of Austin Development Services Department Partners with Austin 311

Anyone who has used Austin 3-1-1, the City of Austin’s one call for information and answers, knows how effective the resource is. Staffed by a knowledgable crew, we’ve found them to be exremely helpful. Often, when members contact AIBA about a question or issue, we refer them to 3-1-1 because it’s the quickest way to find what you need.
Over the past few months, 3-1-1 has met with the Development Services Department (DSD) to learn about the services provided, and have undergone extensive training in navigating the DSD website and online tools to learn where to find information for the customer and how to direct customers to find information in the future. In September 2018, 3-1-1 became the primary point of contact for all calls to the DSD. Callers dialing DSD’s primary phone number, 512-978-4000, are automatically routed to 3-1-1 Ambassadors who will provide immediate, responsive and quality customer service to DSD customers seeking assistance and guidance 24/7, including holidays.
Along with improved customer service, this partnership will also:
·      Support continuous service in the event of a City shutdown due to inclement weather
·      Provide a memorable phone number for DSD customers to easily remember
·      Track the rate of responsiveness to customer inquiries
·      Track types of calls and frequently asked questions, which will help in improving DSD’s service levels.
If the requested information is not available or rises to a technical level, 3-1-1 will generate a Service Request routed to DSD Customer Service Representatives. Each request will be assigned a tracking number, which the customer can use to recall their request if they have follow-up questions and view their request status online at 311.austintexas.gov.
DSD is a partner of AIBA which allows us a closer relationship to work together and help local business. This is just one of many improvements coming you way!

Join DSD for a webinar to review new Project Dox enhancements

Project Dox, the ePlan software utilized by DSD will be upgraded on September 22, 2018! The new version 9.1 features several improvements to increase usability.
The upgrade will be completed in two phases:
• Phase I rolls out September 22 and allows the use of any browser to view drawings and PDF files. Other enhancements include a better screen layout, ability to search and sort all columns, and more intuitive button names. Additionally, Project Dox now integrates with Bluebeam for file review.
• Phase 2 will be launched later this year and will include a more streamlined workflow and simpler one-step task acceptance, file upload, and completion.
View screenshots of some of the enhancements.
For more information, contact Christopher Summers.
NEXT WEEK
Applicant Overview webinar
Wednesday, September 19
12:00 noon – 1:00pm

Rate Savings From Austin Energy

In an effort to keep you informed, we wanted to notify you of proposed pass-through rate changes.
Each year during the City of Austin budget process, Austin Energy trues up fees and charges paid by customers that are “pass-throughs.” These are charges meant to collect what we actually pay as an expense and include power supply costs, customer support programs and transmission services, among other items.
There is good news this year for commercial customers. We recommend dropping that basket of charges for a net decrease of 0.2 percent system-wide. As always, the effect for each customer will depend on your rate class and how you use energy.
We propose no change to the base rate, which last changed in 2017 and provided a $37.5 million cost reduction for commercial customers.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote Sept. 11 on the budget and proposed pass-through rate changes.
Significant changes in the fees include a reduction in the Power Supply Adjustment of 2.4 percent and a reduction in the Regulatory Charge of 1.6 percent. These reductions are partially offset by an upward change in the Community Benefit Charge. As over or under collections occur, adjustments are subsequently made in pass through charges.
The Key Accounts Budgeting Tool has been updated with these proposed rate changes. You can see the impact on your bills and budget accordingly.
 If you have any questions or need access to the Budgeting Tool, please contact your Key Account Manager. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.
Sincerely,
Kerri Davis
Kerri Davis | Manager, Commercial & Key Accounts | Austin Energy
721 Barton Springs Rd. | Austin, TX 78704 | 512-322-6574

Is Predictive Scheduling the Next City Council Regulation?

Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was largely seen as destructive and divisive. AIBA would like to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (some municipalities are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don’t know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions.
AIBA conducted a local business survey in July to give local businesses a chance to weigh in and to direct AIBA in our advocacy.
95% do not support the City Council creating an ordinance regulating predictive scheduling.
79% of respondents said that scheduling has not been a problem for their employees. Many cited the flexibility as a benefit that their employees liked. While the answers were fairly consistent, they varied by industry.
While 30% said they can and do schedule two weeks out, only 11% could accommodate advanced scheduling three weeks out.
98% could not afford to pay extra for changed schedules.
This issue leaves us to wonder “What problem are we trying to solve?” There are part-time employee with multiple jobs that might have difficulty with last minute schedule changes since that could affect the schedule of other jobs. It is also understandable that if just one employee changes their schedule, the employer must change the schedule for another employee to fill in the shift. We also saw in our survey that many employees like the flexible shift model precisely because they do engage in other activities. They can take off at will by finding another employee to take their shift.
According to our survey, most local businesses with shift work begin the scheduling with what the employees want and let a voluntary system work for picking up extra shifts when available. This system work most of the time for both employers and employees. It gives employees the flexibility they desire and gives the employer the needed staff for each shift. Sometimes employees work a shift they’d rather not work and sometimes employers fill in short shifts.
But some policies plan to penalize the employer by enforcing a possible time and a half wage on any shift that changes. Essentially, if one employee changes a shift, it forces the employer to change a shift for another employee. The employer would be penalized for accommodating the employee. The word affordability comes to mind on all fronts. Many of our respondents said that this penalty would force them to be less flexible on scheduling so as not to invoke the additional costs. In this case, employees lose the flexibility they desire.
But this policy brings to the forefront a question of economic and workplace dynamics. Is it the responsibility of every small, local business to provide a job that suits every employee? Is it the responsibility of each employee to find the job that best suits their needs? If unpredictable shift work is a problem for an individual employee, then isn’t it more reasonable for that employee to find a job that fits their needs rather than change entire industries? What are the unintended consequences of too much regulation on a free market system? A policy tightly regulating employee scheduling has the possibility of denying flexibility options to the majority while delivering stability to the few.
The Austin City Council will be charged with creating regulations and policies that provide our citizenry with the opportunity for a better life. But targeting small local business is not the answer.

City of Austin Redesigns 380 Incentive Policy. And It’s NOT Good News!

Thoughts on Predictive Scheduling? 3 Minute Survey

Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. AIBA is seeking to engage our members and the larger local business community in dialogue about possible upcoming issues with the intent of having a voice in the larger community debate.
The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was destructive and divisive. We want to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (in some municipalities it is X days and others are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don’t know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions.
The City Council will likely address this issue with specific parameters that must be adhered to or penalties will be applied. The specific ordinance is yet to be written but it will determine specifications such as how much advance notice is required (could be a few days to several weeks), what happens if an employer needs to change the schedule after it is set and what penalties will apply.
We would really value your input on this issue. Please take a few minutes to give us your thoughts. We will share your voice with our elected officials.
This survey was created by AIBA’s Better Process Committee. The Committee seeks to add civility and respect to the governance of our city and the creation of its policies. The information gathered in this survey will help us advocate for local business. All indetity and contact information will be kept confidential.