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TipSheet: Travis County, 6.02.20

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

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 public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or by tuning in to public access Channel 17. The entire agenda is available at the Travis County website.

1. Receive comments regarding the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Housing Project’s proposed Travis County CDBG-DR Housing Guidelines: 2015 Flood Events. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: When large swaths of Travis County flooded in 2015, the consequences for homeowners were devastating. To help those who were affected and facilitate a long-term recovery for the region, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided the county with $1.4 million in grant money for housing projects. Five years later, the county is taking public comment on the distribution plan for these funds. The comment period opened May 20 and will continue through June 3. Citizens may contact the county at cdbg@traviscountytx.gov or at the Commissioners Court hearing on June 2. In the current plan, households may apply for a three-year forgivable loan for up to 100 percent of the down payment for a home purchase in Travis County. Eligible residents are those who were impacted by the 2015 floods and who earn no more than 80 percent of the area median family income. The home must also be owner-occupied for the duration of the loan. Public comment will be incorporated into the final plan, which will be approved by the Commissioners Court at a future meeting.

11. Receive update on Travis County Employee Health Care Fund for the period of October 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020. (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: At the halfway point of its fiscal year, Travis County finds itself in an unfavorable financial position in regard to health care. As of April 2020, the county has a $270,000 deficit when its actual premiums and expenses paid for health care are totaled up. Though there is no mention of the effects of Covid-19 on medical claims for Travis County staff, weekly reimbursement numbers show that the average medical claim in April was several hundred dollars higher than in previous months. Perhaps the commissioners will shed some light Tuesday on why these numbers are higher and what the plan is for county health care in the face of the new normal.

12. Consider and take appropriate action regarding the Travis County Climate Action Plan. (Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: After being postponed last week, this item is scheduled to be on the agenda for commissioners to discuss a plan that has been in the works since 2019. Although many other Texas cities, including Austin, have adopted climate action plans, this is the first time the Commissioners Court will explore supporting a comprehensive climate action plan, according to county spokesperson Hector Nieto. The plan will focus on improvements in water use, energy use, transportation, waste/recycling, purchasing, and organizational culture and process improvement throughout the county. While there are existing efforts throughout the county to combat climate change, staff members have outlined dozens of additional opportunities for the county to reduce its ecological footprint. With so many choices, it may take the commissioners a bit of discussion to wade through and provide guidance on which projects the county should tackle first. Even if specific recommendations do not accompany the approval of the Climate Action Plan, the commissioners are being asked for their opinions on setting high-level sustainability goals for the county as well as direction on hiring a consultant.

13. Consider and take appropriate action regarding the quarterly status update on the 2017–2022 Bond Program in Travis County. (Commissioners Travillion & Shea)

Monitor’s Take: Bond projects are long-term commitments with deadlines that stretch years into the future. To try to tighten that timeline, the Commissioners Court set a goal of completing 61 individual projects by Dec. 31, 2022. With two years still to go, county staffers have already indicated that seven of those projects will not be complete by the deadline. Moreover, 30 projects have had their timelines lengthened by an average of three and a half months since the beginning of this year. These increases are not directly due to complications from Covid-19; still, the social distancing mandates have made providing public input for projects in the design phase a little trickier and have resulted in the county postponing five scheduled project engagements for three months. To mitigate that hurdle, the county is developing a virtual public meeting effort to keep the citizenry engaged. Despite elongated timelines, the budget outlook for the bond program is still on target. In fact, 12 projects have been scheduled for completion of construction under budget. The remainder of the projects will continue marching forward with close monitoring from the county to ensure they are completed within budgetary restrictions.

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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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