Travis County judge recaps first 10 months in office

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt At an Oct. 19 news conference, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt speaks in the Travis County Commissioners courtroom about recent initiatives and accomplishments.[/caption]

Travis County has completed several projects and made progress toward completing others during Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s first 10 months in office, Eckhardt said during an Oct. 19 news conference.

Eckhardt highlighted accomplishments in the county, pointing to examples such as restoring in-person jail visitation for inmates and their families, increasing salaries for employees, continuing efforts to develop a sobriety center, hosting county-sponsored job fairs, and focusing on core services such as providing parks, roads, courts, and public safety and emergency services.

Completed county projects include the Onion Creek Greenway and Reimers Ranch Park Trail. Work on other projects, including the Gilleland Creek Trail that stretches from Pflugerville to the Colorado River in Del Valle, will be finished soon, she said.

“We did all of this on a tax rate in 2015 that was $5 less than the average bill from the year before,” Eckhardt said. “Next year’s tax rate will shave off another 79 cents from the average homeowner’s property taxes. … The tax rate we just passed is the lightest property tax burden since 2008.”

There is a $287.3 million bond election for new civil and family courts facilities on the ballot for Nov. 3, with early voting beginning Oct. 19, she said.

In 2016 the county aims to have added about 100 miles of roads as well as other transportation updates. However, the county must create transit alternatives in Central Texas to connect communities from San Antonio to Georgetown, Eckhardt said.

“We’ll need rail to achieve that dream,” she said, adding in the short term, transportation authorities can collaborate to build Park & Ride facilities and fund other initiatives that can help alleviate some of the congestion.

At the same time, environmental protection should remain a focus, Eckhardt said.

“We must enlist more of our Central Texas neighbors, our surrounding counties, in protecting our fragile environment against threats from current projects like [SH] 45 SW, proposed projects like the Lakeway toll road and scientifically unsupportable calls for the delisting of endangered species like the golden-cheeked warbler,” she said.

The county must also continually assess relationships with the private sector and continue to meet with major taxing entities to look for potential ways to collaborate, Eckhardt said.