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TipSheet: Travis County, 8.18.20

Tuesday, August 18, 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. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning in to public access channel 17.

1. Receive comments regarding the FY 2021 Travis County Preliminary Budget. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Travis County’s preliminary budget will be presented at a public hearing Tuesday where county residents are invited to offer their input and reactions to the proposed county finance and taxing structure for the next year. A high-level overview of the budget is available in the backup of the Commissioners Court agenda and goes over many facets of the county’s financial health, including the 5.9 percent increase in the requested budget to the General Fund, which will total a proposed $935.1 million for the upcoming fiscal year. The grand total budget proposed for all county funds is $1.28 billion. Residential property tax rates are also proposed to increase 1.37 percent to 37.4 cents per $100 in taxable value. While Tuesday will not be the only opportunity to give input on the budget, the next public hearing will be Sept. 15, when commissioners hear input on the tax rate.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on the joint appointment to the Central Health Board of Managers. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: After interviewing three finalists last Thursday to replace Abigail Aiken on the Central Health Board of Managers, the Commissioners Court will vote Tuesday to appoint a replacement for the remainder of Aiken’s term and to assume a term that extends through the end of 2024. The three finalists are Cynthia Brinson, Susan Lee and Amit Motwani. As this seat on the board is a joint appointment by Travis County and the city of Austin, the vote will rank all three finalists in order of preference. If the ranking between the two local governing bodies does not match, Austin and Travis County will form a subcommittee to discuss the candidates and present a single recommendation to both bodies for approval.

6. Consider and take appropriate action on extending the economic development program services agreement for Census 2020 community outreach efforts. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: This year is a census count year, and communities are finding themselves scrapping tried-and-true counting methods in favor of creative initiatives aimed at reaching hard-to-count populations by the federal deadline of Sept. 30. To help out the Austin-Travis County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee, the Commissioners Court will vote on extending the funding contract it had earmarked for this effort and adding an additional $75,000 to the pot. Originally, the county had allocated $200,000 to support census-related efforts through July 31. Although Planning and Budget staff recommend the approval of this contract extension, staffers noted that they will explore the possibility of reclassifying this as a Covid-19-related response expense and seek reimbursement from the CARES Act or other sources.

11. Approve interlocal agreement with the City of Austin for emergency response purchases and other purchases. (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: Travis County and the city of Austin have worked collaboratively to fight the spread of Covid-19. Now the two local government entities are looking to align their efforts even more closely through the execution of an interlocal agreement. This contract would allow for the county and city to realize economies of scale and substantial savings when buying materials and equipment that will be used jointly between the two districts to serve residents in Covid-19 response efforts. If the Commissioners Court approves this joint proposal, the first order of business will be to purchase hundreds of DuPont Tyvek coveralls for use as personal protective equipment by first responders and critical infrastructure workers in high-risk environments. Once this shared cost structure is approved and trialed, the interlocal agreement is likely to remain in effect in the coming months as governments look to save pennies in this constrained budget environment.

16. Consider and take appropriate action on leave changes within Travis County Code Chapter 110, Travis County Personnel Benefits Guidelines and Procedures Manual for All Travis County Employees. (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Effects from Covid-19 have been so far-reaching they have touched the county’s human resources policies and procedures manuals. County staffers are looking to update policies related to the catastrophic sick leave pool to include an expanded definition of catastrophic illness and to clarify the maximum contribution to the pool. The new definition of a catastrophic illness is proposed to include “a confirmed positive case of the pandemic related disease resulting in the employee being unable to work or telework; or confirmed exposure to a positive case of the pandemic related disease in the Travis County workplace resulting in the employee being unable to work or telework.” Employees will also be allowed up to 80 hours or 10 workdays of paid leave per fiscal year, whichever is less.

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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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