Travis County Commissioners consider budget cuts and also $30K raises for themselves

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2 and put a 3.5% cap on yearly property tax revenue growth for all cities and counties, down from 8%, Travis County Commissioners have been scrambling to save money and rework the budget.

Some of the things the Travis County Commissioners will consider Tuesday in the wake of SB2 include:

Public Defender’s Office

The commissioners will vote on proposed cuts to the budget for the county’s yearlong plan for a public defender’s office from $21.6 million to $15 million.

The new plan would not include day-and-night counsel, would reduce the number of full-time employee positions from 119 to 76, reduce the Capital Area Private Defender Service (CAPDS) personnel from 11 new staff members to nine members, and extend the grant period with the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) from four years to five years.

If commissioners do not approve this plan they could jeopardize the future of the public defender’s office as they would not meet TIDC’s upcoming grant deadline.

At present, the county spends $23.8 million per year for indigent defense costs, of which $1.3 million is reimbursed by the State.

New businesses

Commissioners will also consider placing a moratorium on new applications from businesses for incentive agreements. County staff says this would give commissioners time to review and revise the current plan in place.

Right now, the county oversees seven rebate agreements. Samsung is the costliest at $65 million in rebates. Since 2008, the county has rebated around $75 million to the seven companies and it’s been five years since a new incentives package was approved.

However, the potential moratorium concerns those at the Austin Chamber of Commerce who said this could impact future business in the area. 

“At the end of the day, incentives are used, not for every single company, for a lot of the companies that we want to bring here that are bringing great jobs for all of our citizens and that’s the #1 thing is that the county needs to continue to be a partner to help provide jobs for the citizens of Travis County,” Charisse Bodisch, the senior vice president of economic development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce said.

Pay raises

Even as the commissioners look at ways to slash the budget on Tuesday, they will also be considering pay raises across the board for all elected officials, including $30,000 annual pay raises for themselves. 

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