On August 17, Travis County commissioners began the monthlong budget review process ahead of a September vote.

Over the next several weeks, commissioners will hear proposals from county departments for the preliminary budget, which has a total estimate of $1.52 billion, over $75 million more than last year's budget. The tax rate is set to be approved Sept. 20, and the budget will be approved Sept. 27.

Workforce compensation remains one of the top budget priorities for commissioners as the county struggles to retain employees. Commissioners proposed raising the minimum wage from $15 to $18-$20 an hour and applying a 4%-5% total wage increase across the board for county employees.

Commissioner Jeff Travillion said the county is particularly losing law enforcement employees to the city of Austin and nearby counties.

The starting salary for a sheriff's office deputy officer in Travis County is $52,400 a year. Hays County offers a $55,000 starting salary, Travis County Sergeant Drew McAngus said.

Further, the starting salary for Austin Police Department police officers is about $63,000. Commissioners are looking to match that salary for deputy officers at $63,000 and have also expressed interest in raising the starting salary for juvenile probation officers, which is below $40,800.

McAngus also spoke at the meeting, requesting funding for a deputy dedicated to homelessness outreach. McAngus is the only county constable managing homelessness through the Corp Constable Outreach Program.

The deputy would be responsible for getting homeless people connected to social workers as well as resources for medication, food, water, and other essentials.

McAngus said homelessness has become severe as homelessness in Austin has grown 16.72% since May 2021.

“We're getting ready to experience a drastic increase due to eviction,” he said. “And it’s only going to grow.”

Commissioner Ann Howard said she is inclined to support the request.

“I’ve crossed over from not wanting law enforcement involved to [realizing] how critical it is to have law enforcement involved,” Howard said.