TAC sent a survey on unfunded mandate expenditures to county auditors — and, in counties that do not have an auditor, county treasurers — during the week of April 2. This marks the second iteration of the Unfunded Mandates Survey. The first was completed in 2016 and proved very useful during the 85th Legislative Session.
The results prompted the Texas House to pass a joint resolution by Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) proposing a constitutional ban on future unfunded mandates. While the measure ultimately stalled in the Senate, it progressed further than any previous unfunded mandate amendment. The bill’s unprecedented progress was due in large part to the efforts of county officials who used the 2016 Unfunded Mandates Survey Report to explain the significant financial impact of unfunded mandates on Texas counties and local property taxpayers.
Based on feedback from the 2016 survey, we are starting the 2018 survey earlier in the year to give county officials and staff more time to respond. In addition, a new online survey platform is being used which allows us to pre-populate part of the survey form with data provided in 2016. Unfortunately, some questions changed, therefore responses to those questions cannot be used on the 2018 form.
Use of the new online survey tool means that the email will show “Survey Research” in the “From” line. This may result in the email getting stuck in email filters or junk folders. County auditors and treasurers may need to release the email from those traps in order to access the survey link.
The survey came to fruition from efforts by the Texas Association of County Auditors, the County Treasurers’ Association of Texas, the Conference of Urban Counties, the County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas and the Texas Association of Counties.
While data from a single year is important, the focus of the survey remains on showing trends in unfunded mandate expenditures. Developing those trends requires data going back years. We cannot get a reliable trend from data that only goes back a year or two; even data from three or four years may only show short term fluctuations. Thus, questions on the survey form request data covering multiple years.
Questions about the survey should be directed to Tim Brown, (512) 478-8753 or (800) 456-5974.