It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Rather than continue the first paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities,” let’s just agree to call this the “spring of hope” and keep moving forward. What makes it the spring of hope is that on June 7, the Texas Association of Counties sent an email invitation to each county, opening our Unfunded Mandate Survey 2022. We conduct the survey to determine trends in the costs to counties of certain mandated expenditures — loosely defined, state and federal mandates requiring counties to spend local dollars.
While the data collected is not perfect — some counties do not provide usable responses — it is the best data available. We take those responses and extrapolate out to all 254 counties to estimate total statewide county expenditures for each year. Those annual totals allow us to see recent trends in the mandated expenditures. After adjusting for inflation, are the extrapolated expenditures growing, decreasing or (less likely) staying the same?
Being able to share this trend information makes a world of difference. After all, if county costs are increasing faster than inflation, then where does the money come from to pay for it? What has the impact of these mandates been on counties?
TAC and our partners use the data and trends to inform legislators and other stakeholders about both the existing mandates as well as proposed future mandates. This is why it is so important to collect expenditure data from counties. It is also why we ask for several years of data. We need the trends in order to educate everyone involved — including ourselves, our partners and the state. That’s why we sent the invitations to the county auditor or, in counties without an auditor, to the county treasurer.
If your county did not receive an invitation to the survey and you want to be involved, we appreciate your enthusiasm. The survey does not close until November. If you are an auditor or treasurer and have not received our email, check your inbox and your spam filter. Historically, the filters catch many of the emails. If you still don’t see the invite, contact Tim Brown or Zelma Smith.
At this point, the question on everyone’s mind must be who are our partners in this project? We partnered with the Texas Association of County Auditors, the County Treasurers' Association of Texas, the Conference of Urban Counties and the County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas to conduct the first unfunded mandate survey in 2016. All of our partners have made important contributions to the project and deserve our thanks!
Finally, our most recent report for the unfunded mandate survey conducted in 2020, is on our website. When it is ready, we will post a link to the 2022 report on the same page.
For more information about this article, please contact Tim Brown.