TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In what was a marathon meeting of Travis County Commissioners Court, the commissioners focused much of their attention on the pandemic and the recovery.
The latest update from staff showed 869,000 people are fully vaccinated in Travis County, and public and private organizations continue to administer around 2,000 doses of the vaccine per day.
However county leaders worry it’s only a matter of time before the more dangerous Delta variant begins to impact those who are unvaccinated.
“The Delta variant is super scary, and I think everybody watching this needs to think again about loved ones, friends, that aren’t vaccinated, and try to take them to one of these sites that y’all are doing, or that [Austin Public Health] is doing, or H-E-B, or their own doctor as soon as possible,” said County Judge Andy Brown.
In order to boost vaccination rates in minority communities, Commissioner Jeff Travillion suggested staff reach out directly to the 10 largest churches in under-served communities.
“Ask them whether they would host us on a Sunday, let their congregations know, and then work with our strike team to coordinate shots there,” he said.
Travillion said it was important to bring shots to people where they are and with trusted community leaders, rather than asking people to go to a specific location to receive shots.
Commissioners also voted to increase homestead tax exemptions for seniors and disabled homeowners.
The previous exemption was for up to $85,000 worth of property value. The change increases the exemption for up to $100,000 of property value.
While the move is expected to save the designated homeowners $54 on their property taxes, it will increase the tax burden for other homeowners by $6.50 to offset the change.
Commissioners delayed a vote on how to move forward with the management of the historic Palm School in downtown Austin.
While the county has owned the property since 1985, it’s currently without a tenant.
Staff recommended a ground lease or selling the school, so long as the building was restored and protected.
However Comissioner Margaret Gomez warned about moving too fast.
“We still need to make more contact with the community,” Gomez said. “It’s been more than a year with COVID, and we haven’t had any conversations at all with city officials, or at least I haven’t, and I think it’s time to do that.”
Honoring LGBTQIA+ Community
Commissioners took a break from their meeting to raise a flag honoring the LQBTQIA+ community outside the Travis County Government Administration Building.
In addition to flying the flag, the commissioners passed a motion asking staff to draft a policy ensuring all county contracts include anti-discrimination language that prohibits employment discrimination by companies doing business with the county on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or veteran status.
“We’re committed to continuing the work that’s necessary to create a safe and inclusive community for all LGBTQIA+ community members, especially Black and brown queer folks and the trans community, who continue to face disproportionate levels of discrimination within our society,” said Brown.