Court trying to get alternative sources of funding after governor signs SB4

Group protesting the SB 4 law on Monday, May 8, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
Group protesting the SB 4 law on Monday, May 8, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of a heated debate over sanctuary cities in Texas, the fate of future state grant money for Travis County remains in question, at least for the next two years.

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets Tuesday and is expected to go over alternative funding sources for programs Gov. Greg Abbott defunded in response to Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s ICE detention policy at the Travis County Jail.

County leaders say thousands of Travis County residents will continue to receive valuable justice services through the remainder of fiscal year 2017, but that fiscal years 2018 and 2019 have yet to be decided.

“We’re just going to find the money to maintain the programs [in 2017], but 2018 is in real jeopardy of not having the funding,” said Travis Co. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Precinct 3.

On Feb. 7, the court approved the continuation of the programs until May 15. It was then that the county’s Planning and Budget Office (PBO) began to explore alternative funding sources for the programs the governor’s order impacted. At Tuesday’s voting session, the PBO will make recommendations to the commissioners court.

“These have been very painful cuts, as far as I’m concerned. They really affect peoples’ lives,” explained Travis Co. Commissioner Margaret Gomez, Precinct 4. “People in the community will not get services that they need. It’s money that we have really worked on spending wisely to make better use of taxpayers money.”

“Most of those programs are worthwhile,” said Commissioner Daugherty.

Commissioner Gomez says signing SB4 into law adds fuel to the fire for Travis County.  “Now, local officers will be enforcing federal law,” Gomez said. “The local area is having to enforce federal laws with no additional money, so we’re going to be taxing our local taxpayers to implement federal laws. It doesn’t make sense to me at all.”

She added, “We are bound to follow the laws, even if we don’t like them.”

Travis Co. Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s office released key findings ahead of Tuesday’s voting session. They include:

  • All Office of the Governor programs support the County’s mandated justice system
  • The programs provide important benefits to the community and serve vulnerable, at-risk populations
  • The programs serve more than 3,400 residents and result in an estimated 4,122 jail bed days avoided
  • PBO identified efficiencies that will reduce the cost to taxpayers without significantly affecting the programs
  • The programs are recommended for continuation through Nov. 15, 2017 so that a long-term solution may be identified in the course of the FY 2018 budget process

“We still believe that Gov. Abbott’s attempt at political retribution is unfair and unwarranted, but we look at this experience as a positive,” said Eckhardt, in a statement. “By taking a good hard look and finding efficiencies in our processes, we will even further improve the great work being done in our criminal court, victim services and juvenile justice systems.”

In February, in wake of the cuts, the county launched a fundraising website and raised more than $135,000.

For more information about the Travis County Commissioners Court, click here.

Where the Grant Money Goes

Department Name  Grant  Awarded
Civil Courts Parenting in Recovery Family Drug Treatment Court  $145,456.16
County Attorney Family Violence Accelerated Prosecution Program  $89,522.57
County Attorney Family Violence Accelerated Victim Outreach Program  $234,043.90
Criminal Courts Veterans Court Program  $193,930
Criminal Justice Plan Prostitute Prevention Program  $214,357
CSCD Travis County Adult Probation DWI Court  $259,284
Emergency Services Travis County SPD 2000 Replacement  $30,900
Juvenile Probation Streamlining Assessment Practices to Improve Youth Substance  $44,105.42
Juvenile Probation Trauma Specific Treatment for Juveniles  $58,937
Juvenile Probation Enhancing Services for Victims of Crime  $149,135.22
Juvenile Probation Leadership Academy  $183,817.50
Juvenile Probation Tiger Enrichment Program  $67,869.91
Pretrial Drug Diversion Court  $147,488.36
Totals  $1,818,874.04

 

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