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TipSheet: Travis County, 4.28.20

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. This week’s meeting will be broadcast to ensure everyone is able to follow social distancing regulations. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning into public access channel 17. To help our readers stay informed, each week we offer a selection of interesting items from the voting session agenda. The entire agenda is available at the Travis County website.

2. Receive the Travis County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2019. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: It is once again that time of the year when the county reports on the previous year’s finances and economic outlook. Unlike most years, a discussion about Travis County’s fiscal position of 2019 will be a breath of fresh air for commissioners and the public alike. In its report, the local economy is presented as a stable system in which “The county has consistently experienced an unemployment rate lower than the state and the national rate.” Those low unemployment figures are complemented by a steady trend in employment that resulted in publications ranking Austin one of the top cities for attracting U.S. workers. The county’s economic position last year also contributed to the assessed property valuation for Fiscal Year 2019 increasing 10.6 percent compared to Fiscal Year 2018, which resulted in the county logging $152.8 million in its General Fund coffers. This healthy balance sheet will be presented to the commissioners Tuesday where it might generate nostalgic commentary about the predictable pre-pandemic era. Next year, things will undoubtedly look a little different.

6. Consider and take appropriate action regarding the FY 2019 Annual Sustainability Report. (Commissioner Travillion)

Monitor’s Take: The definition of sustainability at the county is developing into a more comprehensive evaluation of the operational performance across departments. No longer is recycling the focal point; now energy, water usage, transportation and resiliency have made the cut for concerns worth evaluating. Nevertheless, recycling still plays a big part in the county’s efforts and using recycled content copy paper for basic printing has been identified as an opportunity area. While the use of digital files was not suggested, county staff did suggest using the telecommunication capabilities established during the pandemic to encourage managers to allow employees who are able to work from home to do so once a week. Another recommendation was the possibility of participating in a power purchase agreement (PPA) to contribute to the development of renewable energy in Travis County.

A1. Consider and take appropriate action to: A. Approve order exempting the purchase of COVID-19 crisis response and support from the competitive procurement process, pursuant to County Purchasing Act §§ 262.024(A)(1) (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: The Covid-19 pandemic has required a massive shift in procedures both for the city of Austin and Travis County. From virtual meetings to stimulus efforts, many tried-and-true ways of operation have fallen by the wayside as adaptations replace them. This item is yet another change to add to the list. Forgoing the regulated competitive procurement process will allow for a much faster response time to complete the transition between the contract bids process and the awarding of a contract. It might also mean not all vendors are able to compete, which would prevent the county from assessing all the available price points. However, with speed being of paramount concern during a crisis, it is likely that the county will favor the ability for quick contract execution.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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