CEDAR CREEK LAKE –The Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce met Oct. 8 and heard updates on COVID, budgets, public education and more from Texas State Representative Keith Bell.
“Just to give you an update of where we’re at as the State of Texas from the COVID stuff, everybody’s tired of hearing about that but it’s reality,” Bell said. Bell stated that his office has remained in touch with the hospitals, the three in his district, Presbyterian, Kaufman and UT Health. His hospital reports include available beds, how many ventilators and intensive care unit beds are available and how many people are utilizing them.
“My job is to coordinate Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) to make sure that in the county if there is a problem whether its PPE for your local fire departments, your local fire chief can call my office if they’re low on PPE. My real role out of the 150 days I spend in Austin is just to be a liaison between your local electives and a state agency,” Bell explained. He also explained his and his staff’s role in helping residents within his district get the unemployment assistance they needed from the Texas Workforce Commission when they couldn’t get through on the phone lines.
Sales tax proceeds for through the month of September were $2.6 million in the State of Texas. Bell stated that it looks like a 6% decrease from a year previous and a 2.5% decrease from the last quarter. “Sales tax is 60% of the states budget. We don’t have a state income tax, two thirds of property taxes go to your local school district, the rest is city, county and Trinity Valley Community College or road and bridge,” Bell said.
With regards to education, 30% of the children in the state of Texas have not dialed into a virtual classroom since mid-March Bell explained and stated that there are 5.4 million total public education students in Texas. Bell stressed that these missing students are hit to the budgeting of all the districts in Texas. More than that, it is concerning to educators the impact of that length of time without any instruction.
Legislative session begins Jan. 12, with several hot button issues Bell said. State budget, legislative budget board and public education just to name a few. “We also have a rainy-day fund. So politically, everybody has got to wrap their arms around is this a rainy day? We said Harvey was a rainy day, is a pandemic a rainy day?,” Bell asked.
Bell took questions and briefly touched on his place on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election after he provided the update to Chamber members stating it is a great honor getting to do this job.