Travis County

Agenda Item
Added to Consent
Feb 5, 2019 9:00 AM

Consider and take appropriate action on a request for a license agreement to allow access from the Oak Ranch Subdivision to Barkley Meadows Park in Precinct Four. (Commissioner Gómez)


Department:CC Agenda requestSponsors:
Category:General Government

Meeting History

Feb 5, 2019 9:00 AM Video Commissioners Court Voting Session
draft Draft


Feb 5, 2019 9:00 AMVideo (Windows Media) MP4 VideoCommissioners CourtVoting Session

9:54 AMHearing for agenda item number 2. 2 is receive comments regarding a request to authorize filing of an instrument to vacate a public utility easement located along the common lot lines of lots 38 and 39, lake austin village, a subdivision in precinct 2.
Move the public hearing be open.
All in favor? that passes unanimously. Good morning, ms. Bowlin.
Good morning, anna bowlin, travis county tnr. The purpose behind this request to vacate this public utility easement is so that the owner can build across the common lot lines and not encroach into an easement. I know of no objections. This meets our requirements and we recommend this item.
Is there anyone in the public who would like to give comment, ask questions or have information to bring on this public hearing?
Move the public hearing be closed.
All those in favor? the public hearing is now closed by unanimous vote.

9:55 AMNumber 21 recommended for consent. Next let's go to that consent motion. I recommend the following items to go on a consent motion. I anticipate these items to be noncontroversial and receive a unanimous vote, but sometimes my best guess is wrong so i'll look to my left and right and see if anything of the commissioners would like to lay out these items for deliberation. C1 through c3. 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 30.
9:56 AMMove approval of consent items.
All those in favor? that passes unanimously. Next let's go to agenda item number 6, consider and take appropriate action on legislative matters including a, update on legislative activities, b, unfunded mandate legislation including sjr10 and hjr30; c, adoption of a resolution in support of unfunded mandate reform; d, modifications to the priorities, policy positions and positions on other proposals sections of the travis county legislative agenda. Thank you so much.
Good morning, Judge Eckhardt and members of the commissioners court. Near and far.
9:57 AMThank you very much.
We're here to give a quick update to the court today about the status of the legislation. As you know, the session, we're really getting to the meat of the session today. Governor abbott will give his state of the state speech during which among other things we expect he will announce the emergency items that he is going to focus on during the session. And -- oh, let me get this up on to the -- I know i'm going to do this wrong. See, that's even worse.
It's up on the screen. does that help you?
Oh, that's fine. okay. If y'all can see it, it doesn't matter if I can see it. So, he's going to announce his emergency items. Probably the 800-pound gorilla in the room I want to briefly tell the court about is the revenue caps bill, which was filed last week. It was filed on Thursday of last week in a big press conference that the governor, the speaker, the lieutenant governor, and the respective chairs of the finance or the tax-writing committees of the house and senate were at. It's going to be sponsored in the house by representative dustin burros from lubbock, chair of ways and means, which has tax jurisdiction in the house, and by senator paul, property tax committee, a forum just to talk about this issue. He is from the houston area, of course. The key features of it -- the bill is 116 pages long, has a number of provisions regarding reform of the appraisal process, greater transparency. Many of these ideas are really good ideas, but the key provisions in it are the provisions relating to revenue caps. This bill, unlike bills in the past, would apply to all taxing units, including schools. It divides all those taxes units into two categories. One is what's called small taxing units. And those are units a where the annual property tax plus sales and use tax revenue is less than $15 million. And for those small taxing units, they would maintain the same rules we have now, 8% rollback rate. However, other taxing units, which would include travis county, central health, acc, and most of the large institutions here in our community, for them they would reduce the annual rollback rate to 2. 5%. So a significant drop in the rollback rate. There is a disaster exception built in. And the way the disaster exception works is if the taxing entity or some part of it is in a state or federally declared disaster area, then it is waived from the requirement, if the appraisal roll goes down as a result of that disaster. And that continues until such time as either the appraisal roll catches up to where it was the year the disaster occurred, or five years, whichever is less. Under the disaster roll, they can still do the current 8% tax roll. So it gives some freedom. Think about harris county, which is still catching up from the loss of tax base that it suffered in 2017 after hurricane harvey. This would be an example of a situation where you would try to use that.
10:00 AMJust a quick question.
Yes, sir.
I might not have the answer, but is there a ratio between the number of small taxing units and other taxing units? Who is the general other, and whowho's the general small?
10:01 AMIf I would have anticipated that question I would have had the list. I've got the list. There are probably -- i'm sorry to guess. We have a big spreadsheet. There's probably 100 or more taxing units just in travis county. There's probably 15 or 18 to which this would apply. Obviously most of the school districts -- a couple of esds, all the big -- the county, the healthcare district, the acc. Obviously the city -- the bigger city, city of austin, city of pflugerville. We can send that list around to you, commissioner. but as a percentage, it's a relatively small percentage. But it's all the big taxing entities. The call is now for a mandatory election in the taxing unit proposes to exceed the rollback rate, which again would be 2. 5% for the larger units, even 8% for the smaller units. That mandatory election must occur at the November general election, which means that according to the proposal, you must set your budget and tax rate -- particularly if you plan to exceed the 2. 5% cap -- by august 15th. Now, as you know, that significantly changes the timetable that the county has used in the past. So you're really talking about lopping six weeks off the time that the county has to manage its budget, to get accurate numbers from the appraisal district about what the roll is going to be, to work out what programs the court wants to move forward with or cut back on, and all that must be done by august 15th. So that's just a quick summary. Judge, it's my intent to come back to the court in a couple weeks and give a longer discussion of the bill and of the revenue caps and how they work, and what the impact on the county would be. In the meantime, what i'd like to talk about today is unfunded mandates. As members of the court know, and as the general public knows, counties are administrative units of the state. They must comply with state mandates in how they deliver services. It's very important to realize that counties derive most of their revenue from property taxes. So counties do not have -- with relatively few exceptions -- access to sales tax revenue. And in counties that do have access to sales tax revenue, that sales tax revenue must be be -- produce a dollar for dollar reduction in the property tax levy. And, of course, each county is different in size, in the history of the county, in the culture of the county. As our friends at the texas association of counties like to say, if you've seen one county, you've seen one county. So counties are very different bodies and don't react identically to different changes in policy that we get from the legislature. The county must deliver certain core services. I highlighted several of them. Along with a percentage of our general revenue budget for this ffiscal year. For instance we have the justice system, both the civil and criminal courts, the jp courts, all that's involved in running those. They take up about 21% of our county budget. Corrections and rehabilitations, which is the jail, both downtown and at del valle and all the staff and personnel, the food and healthcare we provide prisoners, 17. 15% of the budget. Then we have other public safety that we do. I think many of our citizens appreciate the fact that in addition to the jailers, who you think of in the context of downtown or del valle, we have law enforcement officers, and for many of our citizens, the person who's going to answer a call for 911 or something like that is going to be a travis county deputy sheriff. That's another 11. 55% of the budget. If you add those three numbers up, you're right at 50% of the budget. In addition we talk about things like our general government functions. We have to conduction elections on behalf of the state. We have to collect taxes on behalf of the state. We do vital statistics and public records on behalf of the state. We manage the flow of paper and documentation in our courts. So all of those add another 18%. So these are the core services the counties have to provide. And those core services are frequently overlaid with unfunded mandates, which is really what I want to talk about. Those are directions from the state about how to do one of our core services that don't have money attached to them. Here's an example of some of the big unfunded mandates that the county is dealing with this year. This is our budget numbers for fy19. For indigent criminal defense we're spending -- or budgeted $13. 5 million. Civil indigent defense, which is providing legal representation to children and parents, and others who are in the cps system and are talking about who's going to keep a child or whether a child's going to be taken away, that's another $10. 2 million. Blue warrants, which is people who are parolees in the state system -- this is the state criminal justice system, these are parolees who are out but under the supervision of the state -- if they make a technical violation of their parole conditions, they can be arrested and put in jail until the state decides whether to send them back to prison or whether to release them, or whether to impose new conditions on their probation. That now is costing us over a million dollars a year. The other thing that we do is we have state inmates. These are people who have been convicted in our courts. They're on their way to a tdcj facility. But we're waiting for tdcj to come pick them up. And that's costing us over a quarter of a million dollars a year. So there's a lot of these. Another example I want to point out to the court is we have some underfunded mandates. So for instance, our constables are required to serve and execute kps warrants, that is, for people who have skipped a court date or have otherwise violated a condition that a court has imposed on them. They are required by statute -- or the maximum that they can recover for executing that warrant is $50. But we did an analysis now a couple years ago that said that the cost of doing that was $88. So this is an example of something the state has asked us to do, isn't really giving us the full amount of money we need to do it, and as you can imagine, there are many of those scattered throughout what we're doing.
10:08 AMAnd I just want to punctuate that. It would be cheaper for the state to take those inmates. But consider -- because their daily rate is about $60 a day. Consider this, though. We provide air conditioning. That's not a joke. We provide air conditioning to those inmates. For those inmates, their stay with us is more humane, because our community sets a higher standard for how we treat human beings who are in our temporary custody.
10:09 AMAnd that, judge, is a good example of how 254 counties do things differently. And each county does, as you suggest, what is in response to the values and principles of the community they serve. And as a result, not one size rule, like a 2. 5% cap, is going to fit all. But I digress because i'm talking about unfunded mandates today. And there have be two bills filed to try to constitutional protection against unfunded mandates. One is hjr30 by representative wayne burns. And the other is sjr10 by our own senator buckingham, representing travis county up towards abilene and temple, that area. So we're very happy that she is a sponsor of this legislation. The basic idea of the constitutional amendment is that the legislature cannot impose a mandate on a local government without providing either state funding or some other stream of revenue for that local government in order to execute that mandate. Because it's a constitutional amendment, it must get 100 votes in the senate and 21 -- i'm sorry, 100 votes in the house and 21 votes in the senate in order to pass and then must go to the voters in a constitutional election, which would probably be held this november. Last session, representative burns filed a similar bill which did pass the house and go over to the senate. It ran out of time over there. So we're very excited about senator buckingham's leadership in trying to push this bill forward in the senate at the same time representative burns tries to move it in the house. So what we're asking the court to do is to adopt a resolution that is included in your backup that would encourage support by all legislators and esse -- certainly by our delegation for this unfunded mandate protection as included in these two constitutional amendments.
10:11 AMDo I have a motion?
Move approval. second.
We have a motion by Commissioner Gomez seconded by Commissioner Travillion. Deliberation on the motion? And media, could we bring Commissioner Shea back up on the screen if she's available? I believe that she is. Okay. Thank you.
Overhead --
Thank you so much. I don't have her on my screen. My apologies. Deliberation on the motion? All those in favor? That probably passes unanimously, yeah?
Yes, ma'am.
Okay. that passes unanimously.
Ladies and gentlemen, there3 are 112 days remaining in the session. Thank you very much.
Before you go though, with regard to the revenue caps --
Yes, ma'am.
We do have significant legislation in both the senate and the house that you're going to come back and give us more information on next week. But I do ask all individuals who are intereted in the levels of services that the county sets, we generally set the level of service above what the state mandates because our community has frankly a different standard. I mentioned air conditioning in the jail, for one. Another big standard that we set higher than the state is jail diversion programs and arrest diversion programs, which are so important. We'll be hearing about some of those programs later on today in the agenda. If you are committed to these kinds of programs and want to see them continue, please help us by reaching out to our legislators in the travis county delegation, but more importantly to legislators more broadly in texas about how important local control is in setting community standards for the services that government provides.
10:13 AMJudge, oftentimes people don't know who to contact or how to contact them. Is it appropriate for us to create some type of link to that they could send information in to us that we could compile and share through our team?
I would suggest -- and it's just a suggestion -- I believe that genuine grassroots will be more persuasive than us bundling the information, but I would suggest that we utilize our own social media outlets to provide sample emails and lists of people that we think would be most important to reach out to in the state senate and the state house.
So then it would be good to compile all of the legislators in this region and where they serve so that people know who to write to and who to call if necessary, so. I don't know whether it is sending them to texas online, or whether it is specifically putting a picture and a location and an email and a phone number saying, you know, this is who represents university hills. This is who represents whatever the case May be.
10:14 AMSorry, judge. that's a wonderful suggestion, commissioner. and the house -- excuse me. The senate property tax committee is meeting tomorrow to take up senate bill 2, the senate version of this bill. So what we could do is I could provide to the members of the court information about who the members of the that committee are, how to get ahold of them. Maybe if I can even their social media accounts. And if the members of the court can distribute that through social media or their email blasts or whatever, that would be very helpful just in the very, very short term. Presumably after the bill is heard in committee it will be reported out at some point and then get to the floor of the senate. There of course we have four members of the senate who are members of the travis county delegation -- senator watson, campbell, buckingham, and zafreni. We can at the appropriate time send that information out so the members of the court can distribute that. Then the bill moves over to the house and there will be hearings in the house ways and means committee. So if it's okay with y'all i'd like to provide you that information kind of at a time when it's most appropriate for you to broadcast it to your constituents, to people, to your friends, to social media.
10:15 AMWorks for me.
That would be super helpful. thank you for the suggestion.
Yes, ma'am.
I do think it's important to say this. And I know it's very political. But this is a political process. And I think the public needs to understand, many of the leaders who are advocating these -- I think, really extremist proposals with regard to choking out cities so they can't access the revenue necessary for basic services are followers of grover norquist. And people can look him up. He is an antitax, antigovernment advocate. And his stated goal is to shrink government so that it's small enough to drown in the bathtub. I just think people need to understand this is not just -- I mean, they're couching it at tax relief but they're not addressing the largest area of taxation that's crushing most people, which is the school tax, the portion of our property taxes that goes to finance the public schools. And the state isn't paying anything close to its constitutionally required share of school funding. They're forcing more and more money from local communities. And the fact that they're exempting smaller jurisdictions tells me that this is an attack on the cities. And dan patrick has said publicly he doesn't like what the democratic process has produced in terms of the election of local officials in large cities. So I think people need to understand this is being couched as tax relief, but it's something much, much more sinister, and I think antidemocratic.
10:17 AMThank you so much for those comments, Commissioner Shea. Very well-taken. We'll keep working on this.

10:17 AMBox. It's not called revenue caps. So vote, vote, vote. Thank you.
Thank you.
10:18 AMNext agenda item is agenda item number 23. 23 is to consider and take appropriate action related to a community survey regarding support for the great divide little barton creek bridge project from 2017 to 2022 bond program in travis county. Let me do a little stage management here. This is in precinct three. Commissioner Daugherty has been working on this issue for some time, as well as staff in the transportation and natural resources department. So what I would like to do is get a briefing from staff with regard to how we are, where we are today with regard to the bond project. Then I would like a briefing from Commissioner Daugherty with regard to his outreach to his constituents and the result of that outreach.