Harris County Commissioners Court preview: Tax rate standoff, court case backlog reduction

Harris County Commissioners Court preview: Tax rate standoff, court case backlog reduction

With Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Caglenot in attendance at the last two meetings of Harris County Commissioners Court, the county’s property tax rate is up for a vote for a third time Oct. 11.

The agenda for Commissioners Court is released at 9 a.m. on the Friday before each meeting. The meeting is held at 11 a.m. and is available to livestream here.

Tax rate impasse

Commissioners Ramsey and Cagle have missed the last two meetings of Commissioners Court, denying the court the necessary quorum to vote on an overall county property tax rate.

On Oct. 4, Cagle publicly called on County Judge Lina Hidalgo to hold a special session before the Oct. 11 meeting to discuss his proposed tax rate plan. Although no such meeting was held, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia has since put two pertinent items on the agenda: one to discuss Cagle’s plan and one to propose a set of law enforcement expenditures, including 530 law enforcement personnel, addressing a repeated request from Ramsey for 200 additional patrol officers.

After Oct. 11, one regular meeting remains before the Oct. 28 deadline to vote on an overall tax rate. If at least four members do not show to vote, the county would have to adopt the no-new-revenue-rate, which caps the county’s property tax-generated revenue to the same amount as the previous year.

Court case backlog reduction

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is requesting eight temporary positions and a yearlong extension of 34 positions using $2.7 million of the $20.16 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds previously approved by the court to tackle the court case backlog.

To that same end, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, which provides medical examiner and criminal laboratory services, is requesting $2.3 million in ARPA funding to aid in staff retention.

In response to a request by Budget Director Daniel Ramos for a list of budget cuts from each department, District Attorney Kim Ogg also added an item to the agenda to discuss “properly fund[ing]” her office and the constables’ offices.

Tenant protection policy

After commissioners approved $4 million for renters facing eviction during their Sept. 27 meeting, tenants may see additional protections if the court approves a countywide tenant protection policy requested by the Harris County Community Services Department.

The department seeks to include tenant protection language for projects developed with county funds to ensure buildings are maintained appropriately and tenants are aware of their rights, according to agenda information.

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