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Commissioners Court fields next year’s budget plan

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 by Seth Smalley

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court fielded a budget process explanation for the 2022 fiscal year from Travis Gatlin and Jessica Rio with the Planning and Budget Office. While the first revenue estimates from the adopted budget sat at about $945 million, Gatlin stated that the county will be crossing the billion-dollar threshold for the first time for the General Fund budget.

They compared current progress to past projected progress, which was presented at the Commissioners Court earlier this year. Tuesday’s presentation covered the county’s revenue picture, tax information, and important dates to the budgetary process.

“This is based on information from the first revenue estimate, but I just want to let you know that the second revenue estimate is also out any day now,” Rio said.

In order to develop the budget, the budget office tracks a number of measures to determine how the county is performing.

“We have approximately 2,500 measures we look at annually. Within that, there are 256 distinct programs, of which 56 percent have outcomes measured that demonstrate the benefit of those programs,” Gatlin said, before going on to state that PBO aims to measure all 100 percent of the programs’ outcomes. (Two years ago, the PBO was only measuring 52 percent of the outcomes.)

When the Planning and Budget Office presented the budget in March, $19.5 million of the budget was said to be devoted to compensation, benefits and interlocal agreements, while $12.7 million was devoted to establishing a public defender office in the county, other justice programs and “other general related budget requests and maintenance.” These funds were part of an estimated $32 million in cost drivers, or budget requests that are received from county departments regarding their unmet needs.

The Planning and Budget Office is also working to develop recommendations regarding the roughly $250 million in federal dollars coming to the county from the American Rescue Plan.

“We’re starting to see some of the revenue loss from Covid-19 slowly returning back,” said Gatlin.

Also mentioned were pay increases for county employees.

“The Commissioners Court did direct us to include resources for everybody in the FY 2022 budget,” said Gatlin. “Just a reminder, what was in there was a 2.5 percent (increase), across the board, for classified employees … we also set aside resources for elected officials: a one-step increase for those on the peace officer pay scale and then an adjustment to the pay scale that would equalize steps between each pay grade by 2.5 percent.”

A draft budget is published at the end of every July.

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