Travis County commissioners stress budget constraints in response to funding requests

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore presents at a Commissioners Court budget hearing Aug. 22.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore presents at a Commissioners Court budget hearing Aug. 22.

During discussions about the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, Travis County commissioners stressed that additional funding requests from one department will require docking funds from another.

“It’s not going to possible this year really to just raise the tax rate,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said at an Aug. 20 meeting. “Because we will go to the max. And then the next year, there’s actually going to be less [money] because our rollback [rate] this year is 8[%]. Next year it will be 3.5[%].”

The preliminary $1.2 billion FY 2019-20 budget was presented July 30 and represents a 10% increase from last year’s adopted budget.

The proposed tax rate to balance this preliminary budget is $0.3658 per $100 of taxable value. This represents a 6% increase over the effective maintenance and operations rate and approaches the rollback rate of 8%.

Commissioners have repeatedly discussed the need to increase property tax revenue this year to create a cushion before the 3.5% rollback rate takes effect next year.

“We’re trying to look out to 2025 because we have to weather any economic event that comes at us with less ability to weather the storm given the artificial cap on revenue,” said Jessica Rio, county executive for the planning and budget office.

Representatives from One Voice Central Texas—a coalition of local nonprofit health and human services organization—urged commissioners at an Aug. 20 meeting to increase funding for the health and human services department.

“What we are seeing in all of our member agencies is an increase in the acuity of the people we are serving. People are hurting more and more, and it harder and harder to connect them with all the tools they need to build wellbeing in this community,” said Jo Kathryn Quinn, CEO of the homelessness services nonprofit Caritas of Austin, which is a member of One Voice Central Texas.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who represents Precinct 3, asked Quinn from which other departments the court should pull funding to meet her request.

At an Aug. 22 budget hearing, four county departments made requests for additional funding not included in the preliminary budget

Precinct 3 constables asked for a traffic safety unit.

District Attorney Margaret Moore asked for new full-time salaries for the county’s adult sexual assault unit.

The health and human services department asked for funding to continue family resource centers; located at area schools, the centers serve vulnerable populations, providing physical and mental health resources, adult education programs, case management and help with utility bills.

And the transportation and natural resources department asked for funding for traffic impact analysis, parkland management and other programs.

While commissioners were supportive of the programs at hand, they repeatedly brought up concerns about expanding the budget in light of the coming revenue cap.

“This seems to me like kind of a Cadillac program,” Commissioner Brigid Shea, who represents Precinct 2, said of Moore’s request for a more robust specialized unit.

About the resource centers, Eckhardt said, “There is no doubt that this a wonderful program… I don’t want you all to take away from whatever budget decision that we make here [that it] is in any way a judgment on the program.”
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


MOST RECENT

Tents have become a common sight throughout Austin including along Cesar Chavez Street downtown, but with the passage of Proposition B the city may now consider moving unsheltered homeless individuals to designated sites. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Designated campsites for the homeless are back on the table

City staff had previously dismissed developing official camping locations in 2019, but new directives from City Council this week could revive the concept in Austin.

Wag-A-Bag is headquartered in Round Rock. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Wag-A-Bag to operate under new ownership, name; Austin, TxDOT at odds over I-35 overhaul; and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Austin area.

Stephanie Hayden-Howard will become an assistant city manager in Austin on May 10. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Role changes coming for health officials leading Austin-Travis County COVID-19 efforts

Dr. Desmar Walkes will take over as Austin's next medical director and local health authority as Dr. Mark Escott and Stephanie Hayden-Howard transition to new roles with the city.

The brewery and kitchen‘s new spot will offer a larger indoor setting area than its original. (Courtesy Suds Monkey Brewing Co.)
Dripping Springs brewery relocates to new, expanded facility closer to Austin

Suds Monkey Brewing Co. opened in Dripping Springs in 2017.

A pilot Austin Police Department cadet class is now set to commence in June under an updated training regimen and with additional city and community oversight on the APD academy's culture and curriculum. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council votes to restart APD cadet training in June, with framework for ongoing reviews of pilot academy

The Austin Police Department's 144th cadet class will now kick off training next month, with continued oversight of APD's instruction and culture throughout the 34-week academy process.

Marco's Pizza will open a South Austin location later this month. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pizzeria opening later this month, a local animal shelter hits a milestone and more South Austin business news

Here are updates from The Bungalow, PAWS Shelter of Central Texas and more.

Holland Photo Imaging celebrates 40 years in business this year. (Courtesy Holland Photo Imaging)
The latest business news in South Central Austin

1. Holland Photo Imaging, located at 2125 Goodrich Ave., Ste. A, Austin, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the community this year. Founded in 1981 by Pete Holland, the business has been owned by residents Brian and Morgan Morrison since 2006. Holland Photo Imaging offers film processing, printing, framing, photo restoration and archiving services. 512-442-4274. www.hollandphoto.com

A sign advertises a property for rent in Austin on May 6. Local eviction orders remain in place through August 1 protecting most tenants from eviction. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Local eviction moratoriums remain in effect despite federal judge’s decision

The May 5 ruling from a U.S. District Court judge striking down a federal moratorium does not affect orders in place in Austin or Travis County.

Q2 Stadium in North Austin
U.S. women’s national soccer team to debut Q2 Stadium next month

The USWNT takes on the Nigerian national team at Q2 Stadium ahead of the summer Olympic Games.

Juneau was adopted at Austin Animal Center in November 2019. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Animal Center reaches critical capacity, opens doors to all adopters for first time since May 2020

Austin and Travis County’s animal shelter, Austin Animal Center, reached negative kennel space May 4, meaning there are more dogs than available kennels, according to a release from the city of Austin.