Data Collection Underway
“Let me encourage each county to provide data for this survey so that we can accurately explain how unfunded and partially funded mandates affect local governmental bodies and taxpayers.” CJCAT President Chuck Statler, Taylor County Commissioner
The Unfunded Mandate Survey was created to help explain the cost of unfunded and underfunded mandates on property tax payers. The project is a collaborative effort of the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT), the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, the Texas Association of County Auditors, and the County Treasurers Association of Texas.
The online survey was sent to county auditors or treasurers on June 9.
“We default to the auditors in those counties that have them and send to the treasurers in those counties that do not,” explained Tim Brown, senior analyst with the TAC County Information Program. The deadline to complete the survey is Nov. 5.
Data from 138 counties was included in the 2018 Unfunded Mandate Survey Report (see excerpt below).
“One of the most important requests that counties receive is to complete the survey on unfunded mandates,” declared Taylor County Commissioner Chuck Statler. “The survey report is an awesome tool used to help explain the cost of unfunded and partially funded mandates handed down by the Texas Legislature,” continued Statler, president of the CJCAT. “The mandates are part of the annual budget for each and every one of our 254 counties.”
Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller recently shared a resolution opposing unfunded mandates personalized with Victoria County data; the county resolution was based on a resolution passed by the CJCAT in October 2019.
“With the state facing a budget shortfall next session, counties are facing an even greater threat of new unfunded mandates and cost shifting from Austin,” emphasized Zeller, first vice president of the CJCAT. “Participating in this survey helps us tell our story more effectively by putting hard dollar costs on the programs and mandates from the state.”
The 2018 survey included data on most questions from FY 2011 through FY 2018. This year, data is being requested from FY 2015 through FY 2020.
“We hope the changes make the survey easier to complete and, given how busy everyone is with COVID-19-related tasks, also hope this will encourage more counties to participate,” Brown shared.
Questions will include data pertaining to the Judicial System, Indigent Defense (Court-Appointed Attorneys in Criminal Cases), Court-Appointed Attorneys in Child Protective Services Cases, Victim Assistance Coordinators, Jury Pay, Bail Bond Boards, E-Filing, County Jails (Emergency Room Visits, Prescription Drugs, Mental Health Evaluations), Adult Probation, Juvenile Probation, Indigent Health Care, Indigent Health Care of County Jail Inmates, Mandated Training for Jail Staff, Total Jail Expenditures, Elections (General Election Costs, Early Voting in Primary Elections, Special Elections, and Electronic Voting Equipment), Indigent Burials, Medical Examiner Services/Offices, Autopsies, Costs for Collecting Motor Vehicle Fees and Taxes, Revenue from Collecting Motor Vehicle Fees and Taxes, Support for the Department of Public Safety, Veterans, Appraisal District Budgets, Open Meetings, and Notices Required by Law.
The final report may include indigent defense costs provided by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission; blue warrant data provided by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards; inmate data provided by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, used to create an estimate of state inmate costs; and information on costs from oversize/overweight trucks on county roads and bridges.
“Where possible, we pre-populated the survey with data from previous editions,” Brown explained. Thus, counties that previously responded to the survey should see their prior year expenditures in their online survey, except for questions that were substantially altered from the previous survey.
A link to a PDF copy of the survey will be provided in a follow-up newsletter from TAC.
“Some officials prefer to work offline on the hard copy and then enter their numbers later,” Brown noted. In those cases, the data from previous participants will not be pre-populated.
“I strongly encourage every county to participate in this year’s unfunded mandate survey,” Zeller urged. “When Victoria County completed the last survey in 2018, we were able to show our constituents just how much they are burdened by unfunded mandates handed down from the state legislature.”
For more information or for assistance, please contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.