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TipSheet: Travis County, 8.25.20

Tuesday, August 25, 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. This week will have a hefty agenda, but we’ve picked a choice few we think are worth some additional attention.

2. Consider and take appropriate action on request from the Texas Democratic Secular Caucus for a resolution opposing the use of conversion therapy on minors within Travis County, Texas. (Judge Biscoe & Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: The Commissioners Court will vote on a resolution banning the use of conversion therapy on individuals under the age of 18, under the justification that it is “an archaic and immoral practice that is detrimental to the mental, emotional and physical well‐being of LGBTQ individuals.” This resolution was requested by the Secular Democrats of Texas.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on Health and Human Services recommendation for investment of Coronavirus Relief Funds in social services. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: At the end of last month, the Commissioners Court allocated the remainder of the federal Covid-19 relief dollars to a variety of departments, including $5 million to Health and Human Services. The social services department is requesting that the court increase this allocation to $5.54 million in order to add additional funding to its nonprofit stability fund to help offset the negative impact of the pandemic. Although the request will be added to Covid-19 relief efforts, since federal funds have already been distributed the commissioners will need to identify another source to provide these funds. Despite a tight budget and no identified source of funding for this ask, staffers are recommending approval of the request on Tuesday.

14. Consider and take appropriate action to revise the date that the Commissioners Court will adopt the 2020 Property Tax Rate (Fiscal Year 2021) to Tuesday, September 15, 2020, in order to give all Commissioners the opportunity to be physically present. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: The county already has it on its calendar to set a public hearing to adopt the property tax rate before having a final hearing on the proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Sept. 15 was originally supposed to be a public hearing on the rate. This item will adjust that timeline bringing the vote on the tax rate earlier in the process. Commissioners will likely also decide whether to maintain the public hearing on the same day as the vote or to move it up earlier in the schedule.

15. Receive monthly update on Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding [Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF)]. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: On July 28, the Commissioners Court fully allocated its $61.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds. This month, commissioners will receive their first update on the status of those distributions to various initiatives and programs. So far, the largest amount of allocated dollars comes from the $7.3 million direct assistance fund for smaller cities; the county has distributed 75.7 percent of those dollars. Other big programs include small business grant funding and the rent and mortgage assistance, to which the county has distributed 9.9 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. Just over 14 percent of $8.8 million was earmarked for a joint public health response with the city of Austin. The County Executive of Emergency Services is working with the city on an interlocal agreement to determine the county’s share of costs incurred by Austin’s public health program in responding to Covid-19.

39. Receive an update regarding County Clerk elections preparations for the November 2020 General Election. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Although the state’s highest court halted efforts to enroll voters in a mail-in ballot program, Travis County is preparing for the 2020 election to be a hybrid election. According to backup from the Travis County clerk, “a large portion of voters will opt to vote in person and a large number of voters will opt to vote by mail.” Therefore, the clerk is pursuing a dual strategy to best serve voters while following CDC and Austin Public Health guidelines. The adaptations that will be presented to the commissioners will be absorbed by the current budget.

42. Consider and take appropriate action on Central Health’s purchase of land in eastern Travis County, pursuant to Texas Health and Safety Code § 281.050(a). (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Central Health has been searching for land in eastern Travis County to construct a health clinic to provide primary care, preventive care, vaccines, labs, disease management and pharmacy services. Finally, the county has located a 2.5-acre parcel just east of State Highway 130 on Elroy Road and has agreed upon a purchase price of $801,000, which a third party confirmed to be consistent with fair market value. Now, it’s up to the Commissioners Court to extend its final approval of the purchase before staffers can execute the sales contract and construction can begin.

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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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