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TipSheet: Travis County, 6.30.20

Tuesday, June 30, 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 entire agenda is available at the Travis County website. 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 in to public access channel 17.

3. Receive executed Travis County interlocal agreements for administration of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act between Travis County and the City of Pflugerville. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: After Travis County settled on a $7.3 million direct allocation to the smaller municipalities in the county, the mayors of those cities have been working with the Commissioners Court to iron out the final contractual details. Although the commissioners have made it clear on multiple occasions that the contract is non-negotiable, it has still taken the cities several weeks to digest the offer and formally accept. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court will receive an agreement from another city that is amenable to the offer. Perhaps the commissioners will also provide a full list of the municipalities that have already agreed to the funding proposal thus far.

9. Consider and take appropriate action on status of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund award and process for moving forward with additional allocations. (Commissioner Gomez)

Monitor’s Take: It is now nearly July and Travis County still retains the lion’s share of its federally allocated $61 million in Covid-19 aid funding in its own coffers. County staffers have worked for weeks with the third-party adviser Guidehouse to determine the most effective manner to distribute the funds that were not already given as direct assistance to small cities in Travis County, for small business aid, or for rent and mortgage assistance. Since the county only has until Dec. 30 to spend the remainder of its funds, there soon needs to be a list of programs that are ready, willing and able to distribute financial aid to Travis County residents to use by the deadline.

10. Consider and take appropriate action on Chapter 28 performance agreement with Colorado River Project, LLC, Tesla, Inc., sole owner. (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney and Economic Development Negotiations exceptions.) (Commissioner Travillion)

Monitor’s Take: After hearing from Tesla representatives and county staff last week about the benefits of providing Tesla an 80 percent tax break as an incentive for building its “Gigafactory” in the region, the proposal will reappear Tuesday for a vote. Should the Commissioners Court approve the deal, the tax break will allow Tesla to claw back $14.6 million in property taxes and leave the city to collect $7 million over the course of 10 years. As part of that rebate agreement, Tesla will commit to reinvesting at least 10 percent of those tax dollars into local workforce programs. The commissioners’ decision Tuesday will undoubtedly influence the electric car maker’s eventual decision on whether it will go ahead and invest in the Austin area.

16. Consider and take appropriate action to: A. Approve order exempting the purchase of consulting services for virtual Commissioners Court meetings from the competitive procurement process, pursuant to County Purchasing Act § 262.024 (a)(2) B. Authorize Purchasing Agent to issue purchase order (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: Those who have not routinely watched meetings of the Commissioners Court since March may not know that these weekly meetings have been televised through an online portal that allows for telephonic citizen communication as well as the streaming of a live feed and staff presentations. To make the public call-in function for this digital meeting space possible, the county’s Information Technology Services office contracted with CD&P. With three months of experience under their belt, county staffers are asking to continue using this company as the dial-in citizen communication provider. They are making this request with the knowledge that, if approved, the contract will be awarded without having undergone the competitive procurement process. The cost of additional services from this contractor is $70,000 and there is no end date for the contract. In the past three months, the county spent $40,000 for these services.

21. Consider and take appropriate action related to Travis County’s Guidelines for Reopening and Restoring Travis County Offices and Services, including the schedule for reopening, on-site operations, and the distribution and use of protective equipment at County facilities. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Courts, tax offices and other county-run facilities that are integral to the functioning of daily life must eventually reopen to the public. In mid-June, the Commissioners Court announced that certain facilities would reopen by the end of the month with the requirement that all visitors wear masks unless they are medically unable to do so. However, that was before the number of Covid-19 cases began to rise around the state. In light of this change in circumstance, plans to reopen may be delayed. On Monday, County Judge Sam Biscoe sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that the state take action to allow the major metropolitan areas to roll all the way back to Stay Home Work Safe orders based on worsening circumstances, roll back to 25 percent occupancy statewide and enforce a prohibition on social gatherings of more than 10 people. Tuesday’s discussion will likely illuminate the county’s way forward in the coming weeks.

22. Consider and take appropriate action regarding the transition of the County’s School Crossing Guard Program and associated personnel to the affected independent school districts. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Earlier this year, the Commissioners Court voted to transition the administration and operation of the school crossing guard program to the independent school districts it currently serves. Del Valle, Lake Travis, Leander, Manor, and Round Rock ISDs will assume the responsibilities of the school crossing guard program beginning in the 2020-21 school year. The county will provide funding through an interlocal agreement and will use Economically Disadvantaged Students statistics from the Texas Education Agency as the basis for the allocation of dollars. Data from last year show that Del Valle is the most heavily weighted school district, followed by Manor, Round Rock, Leander and Lake Travis. Fund disbursements will be sent monthly and will be based on actual vehicle registration receipts from around the county. The Travis County Tax Office collects the $1.50 motor vehicle registration Child Safety Fee, which is then portioned out between Travis County and 16 other jurisdictions, based on population percentages from the 2010 census. However, with an uncertain start to the school year ahead, it will be interesting to see how and when this program is implemented by the school districts.

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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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