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TipSheet: Travis County, 9.29.20

Tuesday, September 29, 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 is the official moment when commissioners will approve the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, so expect plenty of figures and financial nomenclature.

1. Receive comments regarding the Travis County Tax Rate for the FY 2021 County Budget. (Action Item 18) (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: The first item on the agenda predictably pertains to the budget for Fiscal Year 2021. However, this is only a portion of the overall approval process, which spans items 1, 2, 18 and 11. Throughout these discussion topics, the public will have a chance to offer any last-minute comments on the proposed $1.3 billion county budget and the associated tax rate of 37.4359 cents per $100 of taxable value. Then the commissioners will begin a final conversation on the matter before voting to approve the finalized budget and tax rate.

4. Receive comments regarding the proposed fees for the commercial use of boat ramps and docks at Travis County Parks. (Action Item 37) (Commissioners Travillion & Shea)

Monitor’s Take: As the county looks for additional ways to generate revenue, the Travis County Parks Department has landed on an opportunity to begin charging for commercial use of the boat ramps in the seven parks it operates on Lake Travis. The county estimates this revenue source will generate between $80,000 and $100,000 per year for the county parks department. In the backup, the parks department says imposing a fee structure with a $2,500 base fee for watercraft rental that will increase at a rate of $200 per boat for commercial fleets will allow for non-commercial park guests to have better access to the boat ramps and docks as well as support commercial use through the establishment of policies and procedures. Two weeks ago there was a public hearing on the subject, but no one came to share their opinion. This week, there will be another opportunity to receive comments from the public on the matter.

9. Consider and take appropriate action on Health & Human Services’ recommendation for investment of Coronavirus Relief Funds to support non-profit social service providers (TCTX Serve). (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Previously, the Commissioners Court approved a $560,000 allocation for the TCTX Serve program to support nonprofit social service providers in a manner similar to the way the county executed its $10 million TCTX Thrive small business grant program. However, the guidelines were never formally hammered out. Now with only three months until the deadline to spend $33.8 million of the county’s federally allocated $61 million in coronavirus relief aid, Health and Human Services staffers are working to establish and implement this program, with the maximum grant award of $50,000. Eligible organizations are located within Travis County and must provide at least half of their services to county residents. The county department noted it would like to put at least $1 million into the program, but that will depend on the number of dollars left over when the county has fully ramped up its other programming.

12. Consider and take appropriate action on the reappointment of James Valadez to the Travis Central Appraisal District Board of Directors, for a term beginning January 1, 2021, and ending December 31, 2022. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: There are no term limits for serving on the Travis Central Appraisal District Board of Directors, but a good attendance record is one of the requirements for continued service. James Valadez has a flawless attendance record and was appointed to serve on the board beginning in 2017 before being reappointed in 2019. Each term spans two years. Valadez was previously a member of Austin’s Board of Adjustment and in 2018, ran against Pio Renteria for the District 3 City Council seat. In his professional life, Valadez is a real estate broker. On the TCAD board, he is responsible for approving the annual budget for an 873-square-mile area that develops an annual appraisal roll for 380,000 tax accounts.

42. Consider and take appropriate action on the Travis County Healthcare District DBA Central Health Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Central Health is one of those integral county services that is funded by resident tax dollars, and those taxes will see an annual increase of $24.97 for the average taxable homestead value of $355,379 – a little more than $2 a month. The tax rate for Central Health is 11.0306 cents per $100 of taxable property value. The Commissioners Court approved that tax rate earlier this month. Now, commissioners will take a deeper dive into the proposed budget of the health care district, which has seen a 57 percent increase in participation since last year, a large portion of which is attributable to Covid-19. To fund this large increase, Central Health is proposing a budget of $367.3 million, a jump of $76.5 million over last year.

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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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