Hays County searches for financial relief
Hays County unanimously called upon the state for financial relief for businesses and residents of Hays County in the wake of the COVID-19 financial crisis.
In a resolution addressing Gov. Greg Abbott, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, the Texas Legislature and the Hays Central Appraisal District, the commissioners call for the state to do whatever it can to relieve struggling residents in Hays County.
“It's going to be a rough year. Revenue is down, a lot of people are hurting, and we are going to do what we can to help. The way we can do that is the tax rate,” said Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe.
The resolution calls for an extension of the deadline to pay all taxes, granting a moratorium on property-tax penalties and interest and updating the Property Tax Code to allow for relief measures during Declared Disasters.
It also asks the State Legislature to call a special session to consider all possibilities to ease the economic burdens and financial hardship Texans are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic; they call for a special session to also “consider mandating reappraisals and revaluations of properties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, modifying the Tax Code Section 11.35 to specify that economic considerations can apply in temporary reappraisals and, to codify in the Tax Code that Appraisal Districts can roll back appraised values to the lesser of the current or previous years valuations in times of federally declared disasters."
“There may be some things they can do for not just property taxes but other taxes, like the business franchise tax,” Commissioner Lon Shell said. “We are going to do everything we can if it saves people $50 or $500. This year we need to take some special care to say we have done everything we can.”
Shell suggested the court identify current funds that could be used to provide relief.
The resolution also calls for granting of an “immediate, transparent public review of 2020 Appraisal Values in Hays County before July 25, 2020” and “ensuring the right of citizens to a fair, transparent, and proper hearing process of property appraisal value protests with the Hays Central Appraisal District.”
In other business, the court considered asking the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) to extend the public comment period after more than 100 emails were sent to County Judge Ruben Becerra in support.
Commissioner Mark Jones, the court’s representative to CAMPO, reminded the court that the Hays County Transportation Plan update is underway and will involve extensive public comment. Since all local transportation plans are adopted into the CAMPO plan as they are created and updated, the best way to contribute specific requests is to participate in the local Hays County Transportation Plan update.
In the end, the court resolved not to ask CAMPO to delay its process for fear that not having an updated transportation plan may make the region ineligible for federal infrastructure stimulus funds that could be coming in the near term. In the meantime, the Hays County Transportation Plan update will continue to take public comment and those changes will inform and amend the CAMPO plan.
“We have a lot of shovel ready projects on the corridor," Jones said. "The Policy Board is pretty united that it is important not to delay.”
The transportation update process will have many opportunities to comment including virtual public meetings.
Becerra listened to a variety of concerns about conservation and groundwater quality and stood by the idea of a master plan to address these concerns locally. “When you take our transportation plan and put it together with some of our subdivision regulations and previous studies on water and wastewater in the county, you can create a master plan," Becerra said." The best way we can address these issues of conservation is through our own transportation planning measures and by working with other jurisdictions.”
Following up on last week’s action to rescind permits for Kinder Morgan, the court adopted a policy solidifying the court’s requirements for receiving any new permits as outlined at last week’s meeting.
“This motion is not to say the pipeline is going away. For the moment we have serious concerns with the way things are unfolding," Becerra said. "We care a lot about the pipeline's management of their boring and the effect on our water quality.”
The policy does not affect any permits Kinder Morgan has with the Texas Department of Transportation or other jurisdictions.