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TipSheet: Travis County, 5.19.20

Tuesday, May 19, 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.

5. Consider and take appropriate action regarding: B. County response to natural disaster or other emergency, including but not limited to declaration of local state of disaster and public health emergency, continuation of the disaster declaration, any relevant orders, cancellation, or additional mitigation measures, actions necessary to preserve public health and safety, and any related correspondence, recommendations, or guidance from the State of Texas C. Travis County operations, response, mitigation, policies, emergency assistance, and other necessary measures related to COVID-19, including but not limited to applicable orders, declarations, or resolutions, and any related matter

Monitor’s Take: This week the Travis County Commissioners Court will receive a briefing on the inequitable impacts of coronavirus on populations within the county. Data have shown that people of color are overrepresented in every characteristic that puts someone at risk for complications from Covid-19. The city’s Equity Office will offer insight into how county government can ensure its response to the pandemic is focused on those vulnerable populations and work to produce a healthy, financially stable outcome. Using a history lesson juxtaposed against current data, the Equity Office will illustrate the necessity for informational programs that are more targeted and culturally responsive, racial equity-centered economic recovery efforts, and additional support for organizations that have the networks and knowledge to effectively serve these disparately affected communities.

7. Consider and take appropriate action on the CDBG-CV planning schedule for the proposed PY 2019 Action Plan, PY 2019–2023 Consolidated Plan, and Citizen Participation Plan (CPP) substantial amendments and accompanying ads for public notice to properly administer the planning process for CARES Act (“CDBG-CV”) funds. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants fund is a program that Travis County has participated in annually since 2006. The fund is used to benefit low- to moderate-income residents who live in unincorporated Travis County or the villages of Webberville and San Leanna. Unlike most years where budget cuts are a routine consideration during the budgeting process, this year the government augmented the county’s funds by $700,683 through the CARES Act. In addition to increased funding, HUD has relaxed the restrictions on spending these grant funds. Due to this increase in spending allowances, the county is taking public comment on its newly designed spending plan between June 8 and June 12. There is also a public hearing scheduled for June 9 to outline the amended plan and receive public comment in real time. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners will simply be approving the schedule for this plan. More details will have to wait a few weeks.

10. Consider and take appropriate action on the impact of COVID-19 on the FY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Undoubtedly, next year’s budget will look substantially different than this year’s. Already, revised projections show $61.3 million less revenue than originally planned for the upcoming fiscal year. February’s budget forecast anticipated a $30.8 million increase in revenue for 2021. Such a dip in revenue has caused the county to begin tightening its belt and cutting expenditures where possible. Last week, there were rumblings about how the county could increase property tax revenue and how far the percentage could feasibly be ratcheted up. Although the 3.5 percent tax rate increase cap went into effect last October, Gov. Greg Abbott made an exception for the upcoming year in light of the statewide disaster caused by Covid-19. Under this state of disaster, local governments have the ability to designate a property tax rate increase of up to 8 percent. So far, Travis County has been running its numbers using the 3.5 percent tax cap, but things might change depending on the discussions Tuesday.

A1. Consider and take appropriate action to address substandard utilities in eastern Travis County, including but not limited to entering into a contract with Creedmoor Maha Water Supply Corporation to install a water line to the Las Lomitas Subdivision. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Residents of the unincorporated Las Lomitas subdivision were promised water two decades ago. Yet only within the last year has Travis County begun to pursue options to provide running water in an area that lacks basic utilities. Early this year, some families in the neighborhood began to receive water. However, there were many others who could not pay for the infrastructure to route water from the mainline into their homes and who still rely on the nearby county-run spigot to fill up water barrels to supply their homes. For months, Travis County has been working with the local water provider, Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corp, to find a solution to run water lines to families in the neighborhood. While there has yet to be a clean-cut, affordable solution, this item will be a continuation of the conversation. Perhaps this time there will be new ideas on the dais.

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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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