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TipSheet: Travis County, 9.19.17

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda here. The County Clerk’s office hosts a copy at its website.

1. Receive comments regarding the Travis County Tax Rate for the FY18 County Budget. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: City Council has dispatched its annual budget work for Fiscal Year 2017-18, but that doesn’t mean that fans of tax rate discussions and line items and math and reserve funds will have to wait another year to get their kicks. Today, the Commissioners Court will hold the first of two mandated public hearings on the county’s proposed tax rate. At 36.90 cents per $100 of taxable land value, the rate is nominally lower than the current rate of 38.38 cents. But – and stop us if you’d heard this before – rising property values will bring an increase to the average homeowner’s annual bill, this time to the tune of just over 7 percent, according to county staff.

13. Consider and take appropriate action on public input received on Public Improvement District (PID) Policy, including Subchapter B, Affordable and Fair Housing Policy. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: That pesky PID policy the court adopted last year has been in the shop for months as staff has engaged with the public on ways to refine its affordable housing components. After reaching out in person and online, the county received a whopping 17 replies and staff has amended the policy accordingly. The court appears set to discuss the proposed changes today and then vote on them perhaps next week.

25. Approve contract award for Professional Architectural/Engineering Services for the Renovation and Restoration of the Historic Austin Federal Courthouse to become the new Travis County Probate Court, RFQ No. Q1703-009-PS, to the highest ranked firm, Lord, Aeck and Sargent, Inc. (Commissioner Travillion)

Monitor’s Take: The age-old riddle of exactly how much could the county pay to transform an old federal courthouse into probate courts appears to finally have an answer: $1.9 million, if the court accedes to the staff recommendation to go with Lord Aeck Sargent, a nationwide design firm whose Austin office is conveniently a block or two over from the historic U.S. Courthouse at West Eighth and Lavaca streets.

31. Consider and take appropriate action on the Travis County Healthcare District DBA Central Health FY18 Budget. (Judge Eckhardt)

32. Consider and take appropriate action on the Travis County Healthcare District DBA Central Health 2017 Tax Rate: a. Total maintenance and operations tax rate b. Total debt service tax rate c. Total ad valorem tax rate (Judge Eckhardt)

33. Consider and take appropriate action on the Order of the Travis County Commissioners Court Amending the Travis County Healthcare District Financial Policies for FY18. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: The long saga of Central Health and its tenacious critics who demand more transparency is poised for a watershed moment! In addition to the hospital district’s proposed budget and tax rate – lower nominally, but higher effectively thanks to those rising property values – the court will also consider County Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s proposed changes to the financial policies by which the district abides. On the court’s online message board, Eckhardt told her colleagues that she incorporated most of lead critic Fred Lewis’ recommendations into the draft policy, a concession that might signal the end of this drawn-out affair. Of course, we do not advise holding your breath.

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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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