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Travis County, AISD will likely keep drainage charge exemptions this year

Thursday, August 20, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

Travis County and Austin Independent School District representatives concerned about losing their city drainage charge exemptions likely breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when the City Council Public Utilities Committee dropped an unofficial proposal to remove the exemptions for counties, school districts and tax-exempt religious organizations with property in the city. After hearing from Watershed Protection Department Director Victoria Li that there would not be enough time to make the necessary changes before October, the beginning of the next fiscal year, Council Member Don Zimmerman elected to withdraw a motion to recommend that Council consider dropping the exemptions during this year’s budget deliberations. Zimmerman did maintain that Council should consider taking such action next year, though he did not pursue a motion to that effect. State law dictates that cities must provide exemptions to state agencies and higher education institutions. During public comment, Travis County Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator Deece Eckstein voiced the county’s opposition to the idea. “We’re again’ it,” he colloquialized. Both the Travis County Commissioners Court and the AISD board of trustees have written letters to Council opposing the removal of exemptions. Doing so this year would cost the county $230,000, school districts $1.8 million and tax-exempt religious organizations $800,000. According to Craig Bell, advertising and outreach coordinator for the Watershed Protection Department, $1.25 million of the school district cost would come straight from AISD. Zimmerman first proposed the idea at the June 25 Council meeting, prior to Council’s adoption of the city’s new drainage fee methodology. Council did not pursue the proposal at the time but expressed some interest in discussing it further. No official proposal, however, came after that discussion.

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