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County’s budget season begins

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Pitchers and catchers reporting, the various presidential primary races and the Oscars. No matter what stripe of geek you are, February has a lot to offer. But the second month of the year also contains a cherished bright spot for cool kids, too: It’s the month, at least in 2016, when Travis County Commissioners Court adopted its formal guidelines for the budget adoption process for the next fiscal year. Believe us: We’re blown away, too. This year, the county Planning and Budget Office is once again predicting a robust economic forecast for the region despite uncertainty overseas and cratering crude prices here at home. For his part, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, caught up in the midst of a primary fight with a Republican rival, insisted that PBO staffers not walk away thinking that he would support any budget guidelines that would lead to an increase in the effective tax rate. PBO County Executive Jessica Rio’s inability to assure Daugherty without equivocation that there would be no tax increase ensured that Daugherty would abstain from supporting the guidelines, which act as a budget-making road map by spelling out, among other things, the expected cost drivers the county faces. For example, PBO staff expect the county’s total debt service next year to increase $4.4 million to a total of $97.8 million.

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