travis county

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners will vote today on a property tax increase. The proposed rate would increase from 48.55 cents to 50.01 cents per $100 of taxable value.

The county says the new tax rate will increase total tax revenues from properties on the tax roll in the preceding year by nearly three percent.

Commissioners will also hear public comment on offering economic incentives to HID Global, which is considering building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith

More than half of the confirmed West Nile virus cases in the country this year have been in Texas – over 1,000 Texans have contracted the disease. And local authorities have surprising figures about how prevalent the virus is in the Austin area.

The outbreak was so severe in the Dallas area that officials decided to spray insecticide from airplanes to kill mosquitoes carrying the disease. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the plan worked and that the worst may be over the area. But the same is not true in Central Texas.

“If you look at Texas as a whole, the percentage of infected mosquitoes has gone down in the North Texas area but is staying up in the Central Texas area. We’re still seeing about 28 percent of the mosquitoes that we test, as of earlier this week in Travis County, about 28 percent are still positive for the virus," Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey says.

In Dallas County, only six percent of mosquitoes are now testing positive for West Nile.

Austin's highest recorded temperature – 112 °F – occurred on this day in 2000. That makes today’s high of 101°F sounds a little more manageable. Here’s some of the region’s top overnight stories. 

Second West Nile Death in Travis County

West Nile virus is being blamed for a second death in Travis County. The person was over 50. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says age increases the risk of becoming very sick from West Nile.

As of yesterday, Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services says there have been a total of 48 confirmed West Nile virus cases in the county. Two people have died. One person has also died in Williamson County.

Close to half of the cases of West Nile virus in the U.S. have been in Texas this year. The CDC reports more than 700 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in the state.

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously this morning to extend the burn ban into October. The county is still in a moderate drought and we’ve had several days of record breaking temperatures and low relative humidity.

Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the burn ban appears to be working. 

“I have spoken with several of the fire chiefs out west this morning where the county is the driest, and they are reporting very little activity other than a few runs for people who are burning when they should not have been, and between the fire departments and the sheriff’s office, they have taken care of those," Lee says.

Pascal Dolémieux/flickr

The Austin-Travis County health department has released its Critical Health Indicator Report, which examines the community’s major health problems.

The report shows a sharp rise in the cases of whooping cough disease — also known as pertussis — from 2006 to 2010. There were 908 reported whooping cough cases in 2010 in the Austin-area. 

While these statistics might make it look like Austin is on the edge of epidemic, Dr. Philip Huang with the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department says pertussis numbers are likely part of the disease’s natural cycle.

Cliff Weathers,

Closing arguments in the Texas voter ID trial took place in Washington D.C. today.

If implemented, the law would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The state argues that the new law is needed to decrease incidents of voter fraud. U.S. Attorney General has argued that Texas’ ID requirements (and others like it) are tantamount to “poll taxes.”

During the trial, state attorneys cited Travis County as one of the 18 counties that did not properly maintain voter registration records. They further claimed that over 50,000 deceased voters remain on the registry – an open door to voter fraud. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Travis County is under a burn ban but fireworks are still on sale. The county is allowing fireworks but not recommending their use.

Keith Cooper sells fireworks for an “American Fireworks” stand. He thinks the burn ban is keeping some customers away.

“Sales have started off a little slow this year. People are a little leery of fire. But they’ve been fairly well,” said Cooper. “Of course it always picks up during the holiday. The third and the fourth are always our best days.”

Vendors met with the Fire Marshal’s office yesterday and agreed not to sell winged fireworks, rockets and missiles – that’s because they pose the biggest fire risk.


About 45 fireworks stands will be operating in Travis County ahead of the Fourth of July. Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the Keetch-Byram Drought Index is currently at 378, and a fireworks ban requires a drought index of 575.

“We anticipate an increased number of calls this year, just because of an increased level of awareness of people because of last year’s wildfire,” Lee told Travis County commissioners this morning. He urged people to follow these safety guidelines if they use fireworks. Better yet, he said, they should just attend one of several public displays that are planned.

“Every year when consumers have fireworks, the number of fires increase in the unincorporated areas,” he said. “That’s generally due to people not using them appropriately.”

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

While the writing’s on the wall in the Travis County D.A.’s race, it appears that’s not the only county race where early voting tells the tale.

In the race for Travis County Sheriff, incumbent Greg Hamilton handily leads challenger John Sisson in early voting, 71% (11,825) to 29% (4,799).

Sisson tried to make an issue out of Hamilton’s participation in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions at the jail.

Photo by KUT News

Polls Open for 2012 Texas Primaries

After being pushed back repeatedly, the Texas primary elections are here.

Voters in the Republican and Democratic primaries will nominate candidates for offices ranging from the President and U.S. Senate to county positions like District Attorney and Tax Assessor-Collector.  You can view the parties’ sample ballots online.

Polls opened at 7 a.m., and although early voting numbers have been low, Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade is hoping for a higher election day turnout.

Photo by KUT News

It's time to vote – again. On the heels of Austin's city election Saturday, early voting for the state and county primaries starts today, and runs through May 25.

The primary was originally scheduled for March but was pushed back because of disagreements over redistricting. Voters will get to choose the party nominees for President, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

In Travis County, voters will cast primary ballots for offices including district attorney, sheriff, and more.

Photo courtesy

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved an incentives package for computing company Apple to expand operations in Austin.

As reported earlier today,Travis County is estimated to give Apple between $5.4 and $6.4 million dollars in tax rebates over 15 years. This comes on top of Austin's estimated $8.6 million in tax rebates over the next ten years, and the state's $21 million in incentives. In return, Apple says it will bring well over 3,000 jobs to the Austin area.

County commissioners said Apple should consider economically disadvantaged individuals for employment. However, that’s not stipulated as part of the contract’s requirement.

Image courtesy Travis County

Austin’s Mayoral and City Council elections are just about a month away – and if you haven’t registered to vote, time is running out.

The last day to register to vote in Austin's May contests is this Thursday, April 12. You can find the voter registration form here, along with instructions where to mail the form. To register in person, visit the Travis County Clerk’s office, located at 5501 Airport Boulevard.

To check your registration status and verify that it’s current, click here. Need to make updates to your voter registration? Check out this page for more information.

Photo courtesy Craig O'Neal,

Springsteen Delivering Keynote at SXSW Music

Need another sign South by Southwest Music is underway? 

Bruce Springsteen will give his SXSW keynote speech tomorrow at the Austin Convention Center, noon.  KUT will stream the talk live, and later than night, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band will perform in Austin via a special ticket drawing.

You can follow KUT’s continuing SXSW coverage on this blog and at

A federal court in San Antonio has issued maps for United States House and Texas House seats that, barring further appeals, will be used for elections this year. 

The new maps boost the number of congressional House districts that dip into Travis County to five, dramatically changing the district for long-time Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett. Uncertainty over how the districts would be drawn (in turn leading to postponement of the Texas primary date) have thrown a wrench in election plans for candidates, including Doggett, who currently represents District 25.

Doggett is widely expected to run in the new District 35, which stretches from eastern Travis County down to San Antonio.

Photo courtesy

The burn ban is back.

At their meeting this morning, the Travis County Commissioners approved a recommendation from county Fire Marshall Hershel Lee to reinstate the ban.

Photo by Eric Reyna/KUT News

Travis County wants assistance in planning their new civil and family courthouse. “We are currently analyzing how to finance and build the new courthouse and develop the site in the way that is most cost-effective and responsive to the community,” they write in a release promoting a community meeting next week. But it sounds like there’s also dissension on the Travis County Commissioner’s Court about how to proceed.

In December 2010, the county purchased land at 308 Guadalupe, a parking lot bounded by Third, Fourth, Guadalupe and San Antonio. The Austin American-Statesman reported the purchase price at $22 million.

The following spring, the county asked for pitches from developers on how to build – and more importantly, how to finance – the project.

Photo by Hill Country Conservancy

Eastern Travis County may be on the cusp of a development boom, but a new 285-acre swath of land will be off-limits to developers. The Brockenbrough Ranch (pronounced BROE-ken-broe) has been placed under a protected conservation easement.

Photo courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Planners for the proposed Formula One race track in Southeast Travis County are a step closer to starting construction on some of the buildings at the track.

Officials met with several Travis County agencies last night, including the Transportation and Natural Resources and Sheriff's Departments and Fire Marshal’s Office, to discuss transportation and safety planning. County authorities are issuing building permits for more structures at the track today.

KUT News

Travis County wants to become an economic stimulator. At their regular meeting, county commissioners discussed a proposal to amend the county tax code in order to offer an incentive for businesses that want to relocate to Travis County. The City of Austin and the State of Texas have similar programs, but commissioners are proposing something different.