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TipSheet: Travis County, 7.7.20

Tuesday, July 7, 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.

4. 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: A. City of Cedar Park B. City of Sunset Valley C. City of West Lake Hills (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: After approving $7.3 million in direct cash assistance for the small municipalities of Travis County in early June, so far the court has only publicly finalized one interlocal agreement with the city of Pflugerville. This week, three more cities will come on board. Cedar Park, Sunset Valley and West Lake Hills are next in line to accept the formal offer from the county that provides for $55 per Travis County resident residing in the municipality. Only 17 cities left to go.

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: As of July 1, the county has spent $4.9 million from its Emergency Reserve Fund on Covid-19 related operating expenses. That leaves $623,913 in reserve. However, the Planning and Budget Office is anticipating a large demand from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, so the department is recommending that the Commissioners Court authorize an additional $1 million in funding for the reserve account. If this transfer is approved, the total balance transferred into this account will be $6.5 million. The department says it is applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement of eligible expenses.

11. Consider and take appropriate action on: A. The impact of COVID-19 on the FY 2020 & 2021 budgets B. Order designating the Budget Officer to calculate the tax rate for Tax Year 2020 (Fiscal Year 2021) in the manner provided for a special taxing unit due to a declared disaster (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The financial consequences of Covid-19 are monumental. For the county, revised projections show a $35.5 million shortfall in the budget as compared to the $22.7 million surplus in revenue that was forecast in February. This staggering dip in revenue prompted the Planning and Budget Office to review the effects of raising taxes to help bridge the gap. If the county is able to pursue a property tax rate at an 8 percent increase, the budget shortfall is shored up to only $8 million. Due to the disaster declaration issued by the president, the Planning and Budget Office is requesting that the Commissioners Court approve an order that will allow it to prepare the preliminary budget that will be adopted Sept. 29 with a property tax rate increase of up to 8 percent. More nuanced numbers are likely to be presented to commissioners before a preliminary budget appears for review.

12. Consider and take appropriate action on request from Baylor Scott & White for funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Jay Fox, the president of Baylor Scott & White Health of the Austin/Round Rock region, tallied the regional hospital system’s Covid-19 expenditures for a grand total of $4.3 million. He noted that those expenses coupled with the fact that the pandemic has reduced elective procedure volumes by 70 percent has impacted the hospital’s revenues and requires him to request financial assistance from the county for the full $4.3 million. Currently, the county has $33.8 million of its $61 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund monies unallocated. To evaluate the request, staff asked hospital representatives to identify all CARES Act funding the system had received to date, but the Planning and Budget Office has not received the information. Without the required information, staffers are recommending that no action be taken on this item until the budget office presents its full list of programs it would like to fund at the Commissioners Court meeting on July 14.

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: This item is once again on the Commissioners Court agenda and will be open for public comment. For the last two weeks, dozens of Travis County residents have offered commissioners their opinions on the development incentive agreement the county is negotiating with Tesla. Although commissioners kept much of the discussion last week in executive session, maybe this week there will be a public debate and a final decision made.

This article has been corrected since publication to fix a typo.

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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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