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TipSheet: Travis County, 4.16.19

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. In order 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 on the Travis County website.

4. Receive update on the Travis County Poverty Brief from the 2013–2017 American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The Research and Planning division of the Health and Human Resources Department recently completed a report on poverty in Travis County, analyzing data from small geographical areas from 2013-2017. Among many other insights, the report found that 14 percent of county residents lived below the poverty threshold during that five-year period, a figure just below the state and national averages. HHS will be providing the court with a detailed overview of the report Tuesday morning.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on legislative matters, including: a. Update on legislative activities b. Senate Bill 1771 and House Bill 4528, relating to the ad valorem taxation of a leasehold or other possessory interest in certain property owned by a municipality c. Modifications to the Priorities, Policy Positions, and Positions on Other Proposals sections of the Travis County Legislative Agenda (Commissioners Shea & Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: After two months of sitting still, the property tax bill, SB 2, passed the Senate on Monday, with a minor amendment from its original form that would still significantly limit local governments from increasing property taxes year after year. The version passed requires local governments to hold elections on any property tax increases beyond 3.5 percent, down from the current rollback rate limit of 8 percent. Intergovernmental Relations will be detailing what this means for the court and what to expect as the House takes up its own property tax bill.

7. Receive update on the development of the grant application to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission for the establishment of a public defender office in Travis County and enhancements to the Capital Area Private Defender Service program. (Commissioners Daugherty & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Members of the Indigent Legal Services working group will be providing the latest on the group’s progress articulating a plan and preparing a grant application to TIDC for a Travis County public defender’s office and various improvements to indigent defense. The group now has less than a month to refine its application for submission.

11. Receive briefing on the Livable Wage Study for 2019. (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The Travis County base wage has been set at $13 per hour since 2017, a rate lower than both Harris and Bexar counties as well as the $15 per hour wage of the city of Austin. The county is studying what it would cost to raise its base wage by various amounts to combat affordability concerns of its employees. The 2019 Livable Wage Study predicts meeting Austin’s wage would cost the county an additional $755,000 annually, while raising the wage up to $14 per hour would have a more modest annual cost of $255,000.

16. Consider and take appropriate action regarding changes to Travis County Code Chapters 464 and 482 to reflect the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Atlas 14 rainfall intensity data. (Commissioners Travillion & Shea)

Monitor’s Take: Given the flood-risk implications of the September 2018 Atlas 14 study (which found that the region’s 100-year flood event is equivalent to 13 inches of rain, three inches more than the previous standard), the county is preparing to change its own land development criteria within the impacted areas to be used in the interim between now and the creation of updated flood insurance rate maps. Transportation and Natural Resources also recommends the county require all new structures built in flood plains to sit two feet above the predicted flood level.

1. Discuss policy regarding the Corporation’s participation in non-bond, non-tax credit financed, “missing middle” multifamily housing developments. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: The Travis County Housing Finance Corporation will be exploring its possible role in alleviating the region’s housing issues by aiding the development of “missing middle” housing, the term for housing units that are more compact than typical single-family homes but less dense than multifamily apartment buildings.

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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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