Harris County Commissioners Court Sept. 13 preview: Public hearings, vote on tax rate and budget

Harris County Commissioners Court Sept. 13 preview: Public hearings, vote on tax rate and budget

After several regular and special meetings on Harris County’s proposed budget and tax rates, commissioners will vote to adopt both before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 during their Sept. 13 meeting.

The agenda for Commissioners Court is released at 9 a.m. on the Friday before each meeting. The meetings are held at 10 a.m. and are available to live stream here.

Budget and tax rate vote

In early August, the county’s budget director Daniel Ramos said the county could face a $100 million-plus deficit if it adopted the no-new-revenue tax rate, which raises the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year but constitutes a decrease in the tax rate as property value assessments have risen.

Public hearings during the Sept. 13 meeting will give residents the opportunity to voice opinions on both the proposed budget and tax rate. Commissioners voted 3-2 on Sept. 6 to put forward a rate that taxes the public at $0.57508 per $100 of assessed value—a 1% decrease from the previous year’s rate of $0.58135 per $100.

A vote on the tax rate requires a quorum of the court, or four out of the five members. In 2019, then-Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle did not appear in court to vote on the majority’s proposed tax increases, forcing the court to adopt the no-new-revenue rate.

Court backlog reduction

The Office of County Administration is requesting approval for $20.16 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle the current court case backlog.

That would bring the total amount dedicated to backlog reduction to $36.9 million, according to information from the meeting’s agenda. Since January 2022, the number of misdemeanor cases in the backlog has dropped 20%; the number of felony cases decreased 16% in that time.

Misdemeanor bail reform report

Court members may discuss an Aug. 16 report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School’s policy hub—the Quattrone Center—on the effects of court-ordered reforms that changed how the county assigned bail in misdemeanor cases.

Following a preliminary injunction in 2017, most people charged with misdemeanors were required to be released on unsecured bail. The report shows a 15% decrease in plea rates, a 17% decrease in the likelihood of a jail sentence and a 6% decline in new cases over 3 years as a result of the reforms.

Public meetings for $1.2 billion bond

Court members could approve the dates, times and locations of public meetings for the county’s proposed $1.2 billion bond, which commissioners voted 3-2 to place on the November ballot during a special meeting Aug. 18.

Meetings would be held in all four precincts leading up to the start of early voting in October to gather public input, according to court documentation provided in the agenda.

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