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TipSheet: Travis County, 6.16.15

Monday, June 15, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda here. The County Clerk’s office hosts a copy at its website.

Items of interest include:

14. Discuss property tax rate considerations for the development of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: As anxiety over affordability in Central Texas maintains continues to pervade the civic converstation, the county appears to be following the City of Austin’s lead by putting tax relief front and center. Backup materials indicate this discussion will explore the impacts of raising the homestead exemption rate for homeowners who are over 65 or disabled, and also adopting a property tax ceiling for those households.

16. Consider and take appropriate action on the proposed Civil and Family Courts Complex project update. (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney exception.) (Judge Eckhardt)

31. Approve Modification No. 3 to Contract No. 4400001655, URS Corporation, Program Management Services for Development of a New Travis County Civil and Family Courts Complex. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The Civil and Family Courthouse project is one of the biggest issues in Travis County this year. The backup material is scant for Item 16 and Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s office were tight-lipped when asked about it on Monday so it’s unclear exactly what update this description is referring to. We know more about Item 31 which is the official adoption of action taken last week. It green-lights an extra $108,340 to pay the county’s engineering firm to take an in-depth look at how much money the county stands to make from a second building on the site that could be leased out to private tenants. Expect proponents of the courthouse project to use the valuation as a selling point in their campaign.

20. Consider and take appropriate action on the following items: a. Approve resolution designating the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse as the official courthouse for Travis County; and b. Approve recognition of the ten-year anniversary of the renaming of the Travis County Courthouse as the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Folks wondering what will become of the Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse if voters approve November’s $292-million bond to build a new Civil and Family Courthouse down the street can find a hint or two in the language of this proposed resolution. It declares that “judicial activities” will continue at the building, including tax sales and foreclosure sales. In other words, it won’t be renovated into luxury lofts anytime soon.

34. Consider and take appropriate action on a policy to share appraisal and/or sales data related to the purchase or sale of County properties with the Travis Central Appraisal District. (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney exception.) (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: In case you missed it, the City of Austin is charging full steam ahead with its challenge of TCAD’s commercial property appraisals. Two weeks ago, the Commissioners Court declined to formally join that effort, much to the chagrin of Judge Eckhardt and Commissioner Brigid Shea. This item stands a better chance of passing since it aims to fix what could be causing any potential low-ball appraisals in the first place: TCAD’s lack of access to sales price data from private real estate transactions. The first part of this proposed resolution would encourage the Texas Legislature to pass a law that require mandatory disclosure of that information to county appraisal districts. The second part would pledge the county to disclose any sales price data in its possession to TCAD “in a regular and timely manner.”

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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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