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TipSheet: Travis County, 7.14.20

Tuesday, July 14, 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.

6. Approve the issuance of a call for applications for the Sobering Center Board of Directors. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: When Austin initiated its Sobering Center in 2016 in conjunction with Travis County, it was a big change from how intoxicated individuals were previously handled by law enforcement, which included emergency room visits and jail time. To keep this public safety entity running, the operations of the Sobering Center are overseen by a board of directors made up of four appointees from the city and the county plus one joint appointee. These nine members assume their roles for three years, and in September, two of these leaders from the county will be stepping down from their posts. Judge Nancy Hohengarten’s term expires on Sept. 30 and Craig Moore will be resigning from the board on that same date. To replace these board members, the county is opening up an application that will be live from July 14-Aug. 14. On Sept. 15 the court will select two new appointees following a month of vetting from county staff and members of the Commissioners Court.

11. Consider and take appropriate action on the impact of COVID-19 on the FY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets and tax rate assumptions for the FY 2021 Preliminary Budget. (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney exception.) (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Covid-19 pummeled the county budget and caused staff to revise February’s healthy budget prognosis to one that anticipates $61.3 million less revenue than originally planned for the upcoming fiscal year. In response, staff from the Planning and Budget Office have been working for weeks to determine the best method to mitigate some of that revenue decrease. One proposition is to levy an 8 percent increase to the property tax rate. Planning and Budget staff will likely bring models showing the benefits of such an approach and the Commissioners Court may authorize them to move forward with the plan. Earlier in the year, staff indicated that an increase in taxes could clip the budget shortfall to a mere $8 million.

13. 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: Last week the Commissioners Court extended its voting session into Wednesday to further discuss the proposed development incentive package that would give Tesla $14.6 million in tax breaks to come to Austin. Although there was no public discussion outside of citizen comment on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, County Judge Sam Biscoe did indicate that the court will take action on the item this week. In this week’s backup, the county has outlined the parameters of the incentive agreement that staff believes will help the community weather the Covid-19 induced recession as well as benefit the long-term development of eastern Travis County.

21. Receive briefing and take appropriate action regarding County information security issues.1&6 (Commissioners Travillion & Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: While this item is scheduled to be taken into executive session, it will be worth watching to see if the discussion comes into the public forum for action. IT security is a consideration that usually flies under the radar until something goes wrong. Atlanta serves as an example of how important this can be; in 2018, the metro city had its internal system hacked, freezing City Hall and reportedly costing taxpayers $17 million. Colorado’s Department of Transportation suffered a ransomware attack the same year and damages cost about $2 million. If the county has security issues it is aware of, likely it will seek to make an investment in patching those gaps to keep confidential information confidential.

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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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