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TipSheet: Travis County, 1.14.20

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Jack Craver

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. 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.

11. Receive update on “The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines” report from the Brennan Center for Justice. (Commissioners Daugherty & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: This will be the first of three scheduled presentations to the Commissioners Court on the impact of fines and fees in Travis County. The report by the Brennan Center examines fines and fees in three states – Florida, New Mexico and Texas – and argues that in many cases they are counterproductive. The report includes specific examples from Travis County, which may prompt discussion among commissioners about getting rid of certain fines and fees.

23. Consider and take appropriate action on changes to Travis County Code Chapter 109 related to employment at-will and just cause. (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Most county employees cannot be fired without just cause, while certain high-level staffers, including department heads, are at-will employees, meaning their termination does not have to be justified. The county is considering bringing more employees into the at-will category. Human Resources Director Tracey Calloway has presented two options, both of which would broaden the category to include doctors, attorneys, engineers and “others in roles that require specialized expertise.” This could definitely get pushback from AFSCME, the county employees union, or some commissioners, if they believe this policy change could put employees at risk of arbitrary or retaliatory firing.

25. Receive update on revisions to the Peace Officer Pay Scale (POPS). (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: This item isn’t planned for action until two weeks from now, but the commissioners want to hear HR staff talk about potential changes to the pay scale for sheriff’s deputies and corrections workers. After three meetings late last year with the two unions representing those workers, HR staffers have come up with three different options for the court to consider, all of which differ slightly in how workers will move up in the seniority system and receive pay raises. This is a politically sensitive issue; the Commissioners Court, particularly County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, drew the ire of unions last year for not supporting their requested pay raises.

27. Consider and take appropriate action regarding increased funding for the Manor Pickup transit service as part of the county’s Transit Development Plan. (Commissioners Travillion & Shea)

Monitor’s Take: The Manor Pickup program has been a “surprising success,” according to county staff. The program, which is a partnership between Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Capital Area Rural Transportation System and Travis County, provides door-to-door, on-demand transit service to residents of Manor, as long as they’re going within the designated service area, which includes Manor and some surrounding unincorporated areas. The program has proved so popular it requires a third bus. That will cost the county an estimated $20,000 next year.

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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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