Travis County gives $469,000 to Workforce Solutions, asks Austin to match funds

Travis County Commissioners voted to give nearly half a million dollars to Workforce Solutions Capital Area for costs associated with a transition to a new, expanded career center.

Travis County Commissioners voted to give nearly half a million dollars to Workforce Solutions Capital Area for costs associated with a transition to a new, expanded career center.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area will receive a financial boost—to the tune of nearly half a million dollars—from Travis County.

The area nonprofit that supports workforce development for low-income clients is facing a deficit as it seeks to expand facilities to meet community needs.

“Our only choice this year was to cut services as we look to expand our facilities,” CEO Tamara Atkinson said.

Workforce Solutions has already trimmed 20 percent of its 2019 budget—or about $1.7 million, Atkinson said. The money was removed from client services in order to finance the relocation of the organization’s north campus.

However, prior to county action Jan. 29, the group was short some $1.1 million for the facility relocation.

Facilities change
Workforce Solutions Capital Area has three full-service centers in Travis County. The south center is located at 6505 Burleson Road, Austin. The east center is co-located with Austin Community College at 3401 Webberville Road, Bldg. 1000, Austin.

The north center, currently located at 6505 Airport Blvd, Ste. 101, Austin, is the largest, most comprehensive Workforce Solutions facility in the area, Atkinson said. This location serves an average of 60,000 clients a year.

In June, the north center’s lease will expire. Rents are increasing too rapidly to stay in the 38,000-square-foot facility, Atkinson said. Plus, community needs are changing, she said.

With the relocation of the facility—to a 65,000-square-foot building near Rundberg Lane in Northeast Austin—the nonprofit will be able to serve more clients who live in the area, she said.

“We’re talking about the I-35, Rundberg, Cameron Road area that has a desperate need for these types of services,” Commissioner Jeffery Travillion said. “It’s a perfect, strategic location. This is a really important investment for this area right now.”

Financial constraints
Nearly 96 percent of Workforce Solutions’ budget comes from federal and state contracts, Atkinson said. Those contracts stipulate any expansion or renovations must come from the current-year funds.

“We’re not allowed to save up in advance or pay the service fee for a loan,” she said. “We’re not allowed to purchase a building. We must continue renting.”

The group is entering into a minimum 10-year lease the initial minimum option of two 6-year renewals, Atkinson said.

What’s next?
The county’s transfer of funds—approved on a 3-0 vote with commissioners Brigid Shea and Margaret Gomez abstaining—is less than half of what is needed to stave off further cuts to programming and possible staff layoffs, Atkinson said.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she reached out to the city of Austin's Mayor Steve Adler and City Manager Spencer Cronk, requesting the city make a similar contribution.

“We found appropriate line items [in the county’s budget] where we could cobble together nearly half a million [dollars] for workforce development-related activities for this one-time basis,” Eckhardt said. "Even if the city is unable to find any funds, I think that it’s meritorious for us to put in nearly half a million dollars.”



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