Five weeks before the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 8, Travis County’s Intergovernmental Relations Officer Deece Eckstein briefed commissioners on county preparations for the upcoming session.
Eckstein reviewed the 12 priorities and 50 policy positions the commissioners adopted as legislative priorities Oct. 23. Seven bills are currently being drafted, he said. County staff is working to identify legislative sponsors.
“We’ve had conversations with almost all the members of our delegation about what priorities we have and what we intend to do,” Eckstein said.
Critical priorities—for Travis County and other local taxing entities, including the city of Austin and area school districts—include school finance reform and revenue caps, he said.
Currently taxing entities can increase their property tax revenue up to 8 percent without a public vote. Gov. Greg Abbott has proposed requiring a vote if revenue were raised by as little as 2.5 percent.
“If there is not a solution on school finance, our community is looking at significant school closures,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said. “This is not the fault of the school. This is the fault of the system that the state has allowed to remain broken. I think people need to understand how serious the harm will be to the community.”
The city of Austin, Travis County and Austin Independent School District will host a discussion on the impact of revenue caps and school finance funding Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m.-noon. The meeting will take place at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom G, located at 500 E. Ceasar Chavez St., Austin.
“It is of course very important for us to collectively share the burden of public education so that we can collectively share the benefits of public education,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. “[Education] is the great equalizer. But the state needs to step up and be honest about how we are funding education.”