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Travis officials close gap as court passes 2011 budget

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Travis County Commissioners Court has passed the county’s fiscal year 2011 budget. In so doing, court members also agreed to raise residents’ property taxes to 46.58 cents from the 42.15-cent rate that was enacted for the 2010 budget.


In addition, they granted county employees a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase. Some Travis district judges will also see a salary bump: a $3,874 “longevity” boost in annual pay for local jurists who meet certain length-of-service criteria and an extra $5,000 for the administrative judge of the criminal courts.


Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis offered the only no votes on the afternoon. He registered his feelings on the tabs for elected officials’ salaries and the tax rates. He voted with his colleagues on the measure that carried the budget through, which made its passage unanimous. 


The move came as commissioners got a bit of good news about a $1.7 million shortfall in the budget. In what amounted to the only real action about any of the items associated with Travis’ 2011 fiscal year, Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez asked the county’s budget team about those funds.


“Do we have anything in here that says how we’re going to pay back (those funds) that we borrowed from the future?” she asked.


Travis County Budget Manager Leroy Nellis told Gomez that he had, indeed, found a solution. “I took a calculation, revisited the calculation from the preliminary budget … and what I’ve found is that that $1.7 (million) should be able to be covered by additional ongoing revenue that we anticipate once we close the books for fiscal year ’10,” he said.


Translation? As Gomez later put it, the budget department will be “sweeping out” unspent funds left over from its 2010 fiscal year to cover the 2011 gap.


“I am very optimistic that we be able to close that gap once we get the books closed,” said Nellis.


To be sure that none of the county’s various departments would engage in that age-old bureaucratic practice of overspending at the end of the year to account for a large budget, Gomez double-checked that the county still prohibited that practice.


“So we still have the practice of stopping the … spend-out of budget(s) to zero?” she asked.


Though neither he nor County Auditor Susan Spataro commented on any policy, Nellis confirmed that the county’s departments had been responsible at the end of their respective budget cycles. “I have not seen any extreme accelerated spending out,” he said.

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