Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., August 27, 2003Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Agenda Item No.
|Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting.|
|Summary of Minutes – July 24, 2003|
|Summary of Minutes – May 28, 2003|
|1.||Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation)||Committee Only|
|2.||2004 Operating and Capital
TPWD Investment Policy and Budget Policy
Staff: Mary Fields
Implementation of HB
2926 – Marine Dealers
License Fee Adjustments
-Non Resident Guide
- Commercial Shrimp License Surcharge
- Lake Texoma Fishing License
- Elimination of Conservation Permit
- Honorary Citizen (definition issue)
Staff: Julie Horsley
- Hunting and Fishing License Fee Changes
- Boat Fees
Staff: Gene McCarty
|5.||Chapter 59 Park Fee
Staff: Walt Dabney
- Outdoor Grants
- Regional Grants
- Small Community Grants
- National Recreational Trail Grant Fund Awards
- Target Range Grants
Staff: Tim Hogsett
Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
July 24, 2003
BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 24th day of July 2003, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas beginning at 10:25 a.m. to-wit:
I. FINANCE COMMITTEE:
Ernest Angelo, Jr., Chair
- Katharine Armstrong
- Phillip Montgomery, III
- Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons (absent)
- Alvin L. Henry (absent)
- Ned S. Holmes
- Donato D. Ramos
- Kelly M. Rising, M.D.
- Mark E. Watson, Jr. (absent)
II. OPENING STATEMENT: Chairman Armstrong called the meeting to order.
III. APPROVAL OF AGENDA: Chairman Armstrong asked for a motion to approve the agenda for the meeting. The motion was moved by Commissioner Ramos and seconded by Commissioner Montgomery. The motion passed unanimously.
IV. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED TO THE COMMITTEE:
1. INTRODUCTION DISCUSSION
Presenter: Mr. Robert L. Cook
Mr. Cook briefed the Commission regarding the effort that was put into preparing the FY04 budget and the process that was used to achieve that point. This year we began the budget process late due to the legislative session. In preparing the FY04 budget we conducted a bottom-up review of each division, activities and workgroups within that division. We followed the direction mandated by the legislature and have budgeted to fulfill our core responsibilities to the extent that we could. Mr. Cook introduced Mr. Mike Berger to the Commission as the newly appointed Wildlife Division Director and explained that we created a Legal Division within the agency. The Legal Division will be comprised of current legal staff, but they will now be more centralized. Mr. Cook explained that the proposed FY04 draft budget reductions are approximately $29 million and 103 FTEs less than the current annual budget and we are proposing a conservative approach to the budget. This approach includes holding $2.5 million in reserve, which is 15 percent of the anticipated fee increase revenue. We want to ensure that the revenue comes in prior to budgeting the entire projection. At this point in the budget process all the numbers are still preliminary and will change prior to the August Commission meeting. One of the major factors that will contribute to budget changes will be the employee retirement incentive. Therefore, we will continue to refine and improve all of our numbers and data over the next 30 days.
Mr. Cook also discussed MCI WorldCom and the upcoming license year, which will begin August 15. We are currently in negotiations with MCI regarding a settlement agreement, contract amendment, and a possible contract extension. We are entering our third year of a five-year contract and they have offered to extend the contract for an additional two years at the current contract rate. This is an excellent opportunity and we are pursuing it.
2. Revenue Estimating Methodology
Presenter: Ms. Mary Fields
Since Texas Parks and Wildlife is primarily a fee-funded agency, revenue estimates are particularly important to us and are used in preparing our Legislative Appropriations Request. Estimates prepared last summer were the basis for the funding we requested for FY04-05, along with estimates regarding the fee increase prepared during the session. As we progress into the summer of 2004, we will use this same approach to prepare our request for FY06-07. This methodology is important because our credibility with oversight agencies and the legislature can be impacted if we over or under estimate our revenue.
When compiling a revenue estimate we collect historical data from the last five years and that data is analyzed by Comptroller object code. Unusual occurrences are factored out and fee changes are taken into consideration. From this analysis we come up with the first cut at the revenue projection. Then we distribute this information to the division directors for review and adjust our revenue estimates if necessary. Once we are through analyzing our estimate we share it with the Comptroller’s revenue estimators and discuss our rationale with them. We come back with final projections that we take back to the division directors and then we take it to the executive director for approval. The final revenue estimate is published in our Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) and we send it to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), Governor’s Office and other oversight agencies to assist them in recommending our future appropriations. Prior to the session beginning, the Comptroller’s Office publishes a biennial revenue estimate. The accuracy of these estimates is important because the legislature grants budget authority based on the Comptroller’s estimates.
The annual operating budgets are also driven by a combination of appropriation authority, cash balances and revenue estimates. During FY04, we will be monitoring the license revenue on a monthly basis and will update the Commission when they meet. By the first of December we should have a better idea if the fee increase will increase revenues as estimated.
3. FY04 Budget Review
Presenters: Mr. Drew Thigpen and Ms. Mary Fields
Mr. Thigpen provided the Commission a draft overview of our proposed FY04 budget. Only items that we are certain to receive funding for are included in the budget. Any items that we are not guaranteed to receive funding for will be included through budget adjustments when we are certain the funding will be received. The FY04 budget is still in draft form and we will continue to make sure that we have allocated the correct amount of our fund balances as far as our appropriations are concerned to each of the areas.
Regarding our funding, our largest source of funding is Account 9 our Game, Fish and Water Safety fund. Then it goes to General Revenue, which accounts for 21 percent of which $16.5 million of that is from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax. Our third largest source of funding comes from federal funds, which represent 18 percent of our funds; with bonds representing 17 percent, and then we have a few others that represent a smaller portion of our 2004 operating budget.
During the last legislative session the House Appropriations Subcommittee arbitrarily cut $11 million out of our budget to balance back to the Comptroller’s revenue estimate. We think this will serve the agency well in the long term because we don’t want to be in a cash crunch where we don’t have enough cash in our funds to fund our operation. This was a particularly hard session due to a $10 billion deficit in the State’s budget. The legislature wanted to balance the budget without any tax increases. Regarding our Proposition 8 bonds, the legislature instructed us to finish the projects we have in the current biennium out of the approximately $34 million we received in 2002-2003. They could not authorize issuing us the other bond funds that we were scheduled to receive. The second issuance was going to be approximately $34 million for FY2004-2005 and a similar amount was estimated in the third issuance. The Local Park Grant Program, which is funded by General Revenue, received a $7.7 million cut which represents a 49 percent cut in General Revenue and a 38 percent cut in the overall program. They also cut $1.1 million in General Revenue for our Minor Repair program, $1.4 million in Outreach and Public Awareness and another $900,000 in Information Technology. When you look at the method of finance, we took approximately an $11 million reduction in General Revenue. We also had about a $2 million reduction in federal funds related to acquisition of properties and another $16 million or so in bonds.
We were granted Rider 18, the fee increase rider, which allows us to restore $15.8 million of reductions that we would have had to take. The legislature also directed $1.2 million go toward Golden Algae this biennium, of which we have budgeted $600,000 for FY04. They also directed $250,000 each year to be spent on aquatic vegetation control. Other legislation that will be helpful is the bill that was passed relating to licensing and regulation of the marine dealers and distributors in which they provided $299,000 to implement that legislation.
As far as the 2004 operating budget process, we began the process by using the Legislative Appropriations for each division. By doing this it allows us to more closely reflect what the legislature intended. If the legislature increases a program then the funding should flow to the program and if they decrease the funding then the decrease should be reflected in the program, instead of being absorbed in the budget as a whole.
Every division took some reduction this biennium except for State Parks. The divisions that had the largest impact from a reduction-in-force perspective were Communications, Infrastructure, Administrative Resources and Wildlife. When we did the allocations to the divisions we only allocated 85 percent of the available fee increase revenue. The other 15 percent is reserved and is in the Departmentwide budget and will not be allocated until we are confident that we will receive the revenue.
The budget process begins with the divisions. They review and prioritize their programs and then submit budgets based at 90 percent, 95 percent and 100 percent funding. They also have the opportunity to submit supplemental requests above 100 percent funding because the 100 percent funding represents the amount the legislature actually funded them, but does not necessarily recommend their current level of funding. The division directors also met with executive staff to discuss their proposed division budget and the impacts for the various funding levels.
A crosswalk from the General Appropriations Act to the FY04 operating budget begins with an appropriation of $253.9 million for the agency. The divisions have identified that they can collect $1.2 million more than the legislature estimated from appropriated receipts. Not only do they collect the cash, but also there is other appropriation authority that if we collect it then we can spend it. The $21.5 million in federal funds also represents additional cash and appropriations. We are planning on scrutinizing this information in great detail. We will come back to you in August with the actual figures and we will continue to adjust the budgets as grants and additional funding is received. As far as Benefit Replacement Pay, once we identify how much we need then the Comptroller transfers those funds to us along with the appropriation authority. The benefits, $29.4 million, are not included in our normal operating budget, but what they do represent is our fare share of the benefits that relate to each of our dedicated funds and dedicated accounts, as well as federal funding. Therefore, we go from $253.9 million to $307.5 million.
This year the Entrepreneurial Rider was not included in our budget. Therefore, if we earn additional revenue on entrepreneurial projects then we will not be able to spend it. Federal funds are a type of grant that usually brings in appropriation with them; however, they usually require a match of some kind. So, over the next 60 days as the federal government gets their budgets finalized we will know more. We have the option of using some of the reserve for matching funds for those projects that are not already in the base.
Mr. Thigpen handed the budget presentation over to Ms. Mary Fields. The 2004 budget summary by strategy amounts is relatively close to the amounts that are appropriated to us in the Act. The largest variance is the $26 million increase in the Manage Fish and Wildlife strategy. The majority of that increase results from the additional federal funds that the agency anticipates receiving; however we will only included the federal funds that we are guaranteed to receive, so that number may go down once we have reviewed the projects associated with them. The method of finance for the operating budget has been updated to reflect the $53.6 million that we added to the budget as reflected in the crosswalk that Mr. Thigpen discussed.
The budgets by division will not easily compare to the FY03 budgeted amounts since we started our process with the Appropriations Act instead of with the prior year budget and we followed legislative intent. The budget impact information is designed to help explain the changes from the FY03 budgets and the impacts, so that a better understanding of the impact can be realized. Most of the divisions started out with roughly 95 percent of their FY03 base budget; however, some started out with much less such as the Communications Division. The budgets presented represent the end result after some supplemental requests were approved and federal funds were added in.
The Department wide budget consists of the 15 percent fee increase reserve, management costs that relate to Article 9, revenue debt bond service of $5.7 million, State Office of Risk Management payment, Statewide Cost Allocation Plan, claims and settlements, and interest penalties in addition to the $6 million we typically reserve.
Budget impacts by division include:
- Administrative Resources eliminated 8 positions by streamlining some business processes and their operating budget was reduced by 17 percent. However, a financial analyst position was added to improve the financial analysis and reporting function.
- Coastal Fisheries reduced their equipment, shrimp license buybacks, operating expenses, outreach, and three positions were reclassified to a lower level.
- Communications Division was impacted the worst with education and outreach being cut $550,000, which included six FTEs. The impact will be on aquatic education and regional outreach efforts in cities other than Dallas and Houston. The impact on outreach and education was done based on direction we were given by the legislature. The Texas Cooperative Extension hunting and angling partnership with Texas A&M has been cut. This particular program is very worthwhile and we are trying to find a way to fund it. The Texas Conservation Passport program is being phased out and the print design services have been reduced and the quick copy services have been consolidated. The Executive Office eliminated 3.7 vacant FTEs and increased its operating expenditures by $15.8 thousand. The reduction in FTEs will reduce the ability to address special projects.
- The internship program in the Human Resources Division was reduced by approximately $160,000.
- The Infrastructure division eliminated 12 positions and converted an additional six positions to be funded out of the capital funds in addition to the $1.5 million in staff already funded through capital. The division was also reorganized to accommodate the loss of positions and to provide a stronger project management organization. In the process, the management-to-staff ratios were improved.
- Inland Fisheries had to eliminate 5.5 FTEs, which will result in reduced levels of fisheries surveys in addition to reduced management, production and stocking.
- In Law Enforcement we have established a goal of having 510 game wardens on staff to enhance statewide coverage. Due to the expected high rate of retirement they plan on reinstating some retired game wardens during the peak-hunting season. Currently they are operating with approximately 498 wardens, which are up from what we usually maintain of 485. We have advertised for the next game warden class which usually costs approximately $2 million to operate and those cadets will begin training in January of 2004. Due to the capacity of our training facility, our class size maximum is 40 cadets. This year, we are going to see what options we have and possibly try to hold 2 classes. We are also considering allowing those cadets to be placed into the field along side a game warden while we go through the screening process. Although those individuals would not be a commissioned peace officer, they could accompany and work with a game warden in the field to obtain first hand knowledge of what they can expect when they graduate from the academy. One of the possibilities is the Coca Cola camp in which Coca Cola will only utilize during the summer months and it will be available for TPWD to utilize the other 8 months of the year. The facility would be located at Prairie Haynes and would offer a wide variety of opportunities on site that the current academy location doesn’t offer.
- For the FY03 budget cycle we have created a new Legal Division in which we transferred attorneys from other divisions so that we have them all reporting to a General Counsel.
- Resource Protection had to reduce funding in several areas. Those areas include: technical assistance to incorporate water issues into wildlife management plans, regional water planning will only occur in the highest priority regions, fish kill and pollution investigations will be eliminated in west Texas and the panhandle, except for Golden Algae, in addition to reducing wetland conservation restoration and mitigation activities by 30 percent.
- State Parks division will get to fill 66 of the average 90 FTEs that have been held vacant for the last three years. Their minor repair budget was reduced by $1.5 million which means 125 park projects will not be done and we will have a higher capital project costs in the future due to deferring routing maintenance.
- Wildlife will also have to cut their minor maintenance and repair budget by 50 percent as well as reducing outreach by 25 percent and eliminating 8 positions in Austin.
As a recap to the positions that were impacted we eliminated 78.7 vacant positions and 24 filled positions, most of which were headquarters based. We funded a total of 3,057.4 positions even though our FTE cap for FY2004 is 3,037.5. We will not go over the allocated amount due to employee turnover.
The agency has a total of 31 specific agency riders which are in the Appropriations Act. Our Capital Budget Restriction, Rider 1, has major impacts to our vehicles and information technology equipment. Between those two categories we took a 60 percent decrease over prior year. Construction and major repairs is about the same as last year while land acquisition went up by 181 percent. This is primarily because of the federal funding that was budgeted for land acquisition purposes.
To recap a few significant riders, Rider 6 designates funds for community grants for youth outreach activities with a conservation message; however it was decreased from $1.25 million to $800,000. Rider 14 designates local park grant funds of $1.275 million over the biennium for the development of indoor recreation facilities. This amount is also down from $2 million from the prior biennium. Rider 25 directs the department to have no more than 60 vehicles assigned to headquarters, which we currently have 62. That number is down from 124 a couple of months ago. Rider 26 is another local parks designation of $750,000 for grants to metropolitan parks within a city with a population of at least a million. Rider 28 authorizes the department to issue a freshwater fish stamp and appropriates an amount not to exceed $4.26 million in FY2005 for purchasing fish to stock public waters and repairing, renovating, and maintaining the freshwater fish hatcheries.
A few budget issues that warrant being highlighted include the 15 percent reserve of the fee increase, the retirement incentive impact which we estimate at $2.8 million this year, and some riders that will reduce our appropriations. Currently we have approximately $703,000 set aside in our budget for those reductions. Our license plate revenue which is estimated at over $500,000 for FY2004 was not appropriated and therefore we can’t utilize those funds at this time. Also, the department plans to reorganize and have the Information Technology branch and Records Management branch report to the Deputy Executive Director for Administration as required by the Texas Government Code.
4. Master Lease Purchase Program Resolution
Presenter: Mr. Steve Whiston
Mr. Whiston briefed the Commission on the opportunity that the Legislature provided all state agencies by the legislature to enter into performance contracts through the Texas Public Finance Authority and their Master Lease Purchase Program. That program will allow us to accomplish some much-needed utility renovation projects here at the headquarters facility. The program through the Texas Public Finance Authority (TPFA) allows TPWD to contract with an energy service company otherwise known as an ESCo. That contract obligates that company or contractor to make the needed repairs to all of our facility HV/AC systems or other energy consumpting systems in the building. After they have performed a series of comprehensive audits and determine what is needed they instruct us on what the most cost effective way is to pursue the repairs and what future utility cost savings those improvements will generate. The improvements are paid out of the Master Lease Program managed by TPFA. The performance contract requires the ESCo to guarantee that we will realize as a result of these improvements, cost savings that are sufficient enough to pay off the loans. TPWD will assume additional bond debt, but it is one of the service providers and the State Energy Conservation Office certifies we will be paid for from future utility cost savings. By entering into these contracts it will allow us to redirect $1.7 million of Proposition 8 funds that are currently budgeted to accomplish these projects.
A motion to approve acting upon this opportunity was approved with all Commissioners in favor.
As far as an update on Hurricane Claudette, it made landfall as a level 1 hurricane in Port O’Conner on our Texas Gulf Coast. We incurred damage at about eight state parks, two coastal fisheries facilities and two Wildlife Management Areas in that region. A preliminary estimate is that we incurred damages of approximately $780,000. We will be working with FEMA to try to recover as much reimbursement funds as we can to compensate for the costs for us to do some of the repairs. Our facilities are all open to some extent except Matagorda which typically has low visitations.
Commissioner Ernest Angelo, Jr. adjourned the meeting.
Texas Parks and Wildlife
May 28, 2003
BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 28th day of May 2003, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas beginning at 10:15 a.m. to-wit:
I. FINANCE COMMITTEE:
Ernest Angelo, Jr., Chair
Phillip Montgomery, III
Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons
Alvin L. Henry
Ned S. Holmes
Donato D. Ramos
Kelly M. Rising, M.D. (absent)
Mark E. Watson, Jr.
II. OPENING STATEMENT: Chairman Ernest Angelo, Jr. called the meeting to order.
III. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Commissioner Ernest Angelo, Jr. asked for a motion to approve the minutes from the April 2, 2003 meeting. The motion was moved by Commissioner Fitzsimons and seconded by Commissioner Watson. The motion passed unanimously.
IV. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED TO THE COMMITTEE:
1. Chairman’s Charges
Presenter: Mr. Robert L. Cook
Mr. Cook, Executive Director, updated the Commission on the status of the Chairman’s Charges for the Finance Committee. We are currently renegotiating our contract with MCI WorldCom for our automated licensing system. We are adding some contract amendments and a contract settlement on liquidated damages due to some of the performance problems they have had in the past, and due to them currently being in bankruptcy. The current system seems to be working perfectly. TPWD met with MCI WorldCom last week to discuss the schedule for completion of programming for all outstanding system requirements, as well as the implementation of items for the upcoming license year. Based on those discussions, all required outstanding features are expected to be completed prior to the end of this calendar year. Possible fee increases for license year 2004 have been reviewed and no system implementation problems are anticipated. All issues associated with the wording of the settlement agreement with MCI WorldCom were resolved May 23, 2003. Appropriate changes will be made and the settlement agreement and contract amendment for 2004 are expected to be fully executed within the next two or three weeks. I feel that we will extend our contract with MCI WorldCom because they are providing the services we need, and they are providing it cheaper than we could if we were to run the program in-house or contract with someone else.
2. Legislative Update
Presenter: Mr. Robert L. Cook
Mr. Cook, Executive Director, updated the Commission on the current legislative session. Senate Bill 1775 by Senator Estes/House Bill 2926 by Representative Geren is a licensed boat dealer/manufacturers piece of legislation that allows us to create a listing of boat dealers. The dealers and manufacturers support this legislation and we hope that it will assist us with addressing some of the boat theft and ownership issues that we currently deal with.
House Bill 2351 by Representative Kuempel, which was matched up with Senate Bill 1158 by Senator Averitt, will allow us to use 15 percent of boat registration fees for state parks. With our proposed fee increases, this will add approximately $2.6 million in revenue into our state parks, an area that we’ve never put any of this money into before. This is structured so that Fund 9 does not lose money. We are anticipating that Fund 9 will gain about a million dollars per year from this effort.
Other House bills that we are monitoring include House Bill 943 by Representative Krusee. This bill would allow our conservation license plates to be used on items such as RVs, trailers and boat trailers, which they are not currently available. This bill is still in flux at this time. House Bill 1529 by Representative Robby Cook, regarding the inspection of wildlife resources, gives our game wardens greater flexibility in enforcing game and fish laws. That legislation has passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
As far as Senate bills, our staff is monitoring several at this time that could impact the Department. In regards to Senate Bill 1952, we have been working with legislators to address some of the concerns we have regarding the bill. One of our concerns is that the bill suggests centralizing all building support staff into General Services downtown. Another concern is that it gives the governor additional authority, such as a one-time opportunity to reappoint or appoint new commissioners on the boards of approximately five state agencies.
Other Senate bills we are monitoring include: Senate Bill 155 by Senator Zaffirini relates to the protection of state-owned riverbeds. That bill has passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature; Senate Bill 1582 by Senator Wentworth regarding political subdivisions and their ability to trap and move deer will assist in correcting a problem where individuals in subdivisions were allowed to relocate the deer to an area of their choosing. Senate Bill 1582 was passed; and Senate Bill 1374 by Senator Armbrister would create a study commission staffed by individuals appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, members of natural resources committees in the House and Senate, in addition to our chairman or our chairman’s designee, the Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board and the Chairman of the Commission on Environmental Quality. The committee would be charged to study ways to deal with and provide for environmental flows in our rivers.
We are also tracking the Retirement Incentive Bill since it could have a substantial impact on our funding. This bill gives state employees an incentive of 25 percent of their annual salary if they retire when they become eligible.
3. Financial Review and Update
Presenter: Ms. Mary Fields
Ms. Fields, Chief Financial Officer, provided the Commission a financial review, update on the Business Improvement Plan, as well as sharing the conference committee recommendations for the Legislative Appropriations.
As far as the financial review, in State Parks our revenue is down approximately $422,000, or 2.9 percent, when compared to prior year. While revenues are down, we expect park revenue to increase during the summer months. When reviewing monthly activity, the last two months have shown an increase over the prior year, and we expect that trend to continue into the summer.
Boat revenue, as of April, is down slightly by $220,000 or 2.7 percent when compared to prior year. Registration revenue of $5.6 million is down by 6.4 percent, while titling revenue of $1.4 million is up by approximately 11 percent and sales tax revenue of $816,000 is also up by approximately 4 percent. While registrations are down, we have seen progress over the past couple of months and expect that trend to continue into the summer. The bulk of our boat registration fees are collected between March and June.
When comparing license revenues as of April 2003 to prior year, total revenues have increased approximately $630,000, or 1 percent. We have collected 97.5 percent of our license revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2003. Our combination license sales of $22.8 million are up 1.2 percent; fishing license revenues of $13.4 million are down by 1.6 percent; hunting license revenues of $12.9 million are up by 4.8 percent; while all other revenues, including stamp sales of $13.3 million, are almost equal to the sales at this time last year.
In reviewing our revenue collections as compared to our annual estimates, I have only included statistics for three of our larger funds. As of the end of April, we are about 67 percent through the fiscal year and our Game, Fish and Water Safety Fund has collected 68.5 percent of the estimated revenues. This is a little deceiving with this statistic, since the majority of our license revenues have been received this year. The reason for this is because we are still receiving federal revenues that actually go into this fund. The State Park Fund collections are slightly behind at 65.8 percent; however we expect the summer months to pick up and catch up to the estimate. As far as the local park fund, it is slightly ahead from the 67 percent. The main difference is the interest being earned on the fund balances within that fund is more than we had anticipated.
In reviewing our expenditure status, we are currently 67 percent through the fiscal year and we have expended 65.9 percent of the budget. In our capital project budgets we have expended 23.2 percent; however it is not uncommon to see a lesser percentage expended in the capital budget since several of the projects extend beyond one fiscal year. Detailed financial reports will be mailed to the Commission members this week.
Regarding the Business Improvement Plan, 61 of the 94 items in the plan have been completed. This represents approximately 65 percent plan completion. Seven items have been completed since our last Commission meeting, and five additional items are over 90 percent complete. We plan to reevaluate the Business Improvement Plan in June to ensure that all the items within the established timeframes are still realistic considering the resources available.
In January we submitted a revised Legislative Appropriations Request. It amounted to $505.1 million for the upcoming biennium. This request included a $16.1 million reduction of general revenue that was originally requested for local park grants. The Conference Committee has recommended $460.4 million for our Department, and this is just considering the Department’s bill pattern in Article VI. The recommended amount does include the contingency rider to increase fee revenues by up to $31.5 million over the biennium. This revenue is dependent upon Commission action to increase fees and actually collect the revenue as we’ve estimated. We are also required to maintain the Department’s fund balances. The Committee’s recommendation actually represents a $44.7 million reduction from our Department’s revised request. It basically includes reductions such as a $34.3 million in general obligation bonds, $5.8 million of capital budget, $3.3 million for vehicles and $2.5 million for information technology acquisitions. The remaining balance of $4.6 million represents operating reductions that will be taken over the biennium. These reductions represent a conservative amount, as we anticipate additional operating reductions when considering Article IX provisions and other bills that can impact our operations.
4. Fee Changes
Presenter: Mr. Gene McCarty
Mr. McCarty, Chief of Staff,
presented the Commission
with the proposed increases
to hunting and fishing license
fees and boat registration
fees. As background, the
Department last increased
fees in 1996. In 2001 the
Department conducted an
extensive evaluation on
license fees in addition
to a survey of anglers and
hunters in the state. The
survey indicated that approximately
90 percent of licensed resident
hunters and anglers were
satisfied or very satisfied
with the job done by the
Department, and nearly half
of them indicated they would
support an increase in license
fees to increase funding
to TPWD. Due to the circumstances
at that time we decided
not to propose fee increases.
When we did the evaluation
we came up with two principal
questions that continue
to be posed to us by ourselves
and by the public. The first
question was: What have
you done with the revenues
generated from the last
To answer that question, we have increased public dove hunting access by 200 percent; we have opened 41 counties in East Texas to spring turkey hunting through our stocking efforts; the number of acres in private land wildlife management plans has doubled to almost 15.5 acres; and in 1998 we established the Environment Investigation Unit which has filed over 220 cases, producing $2.7 million in supplemental environmental funds. In 2002 we created a Boat Theft Investigation Unit. Since 1996 we have graduated 144 new game wardens. In 1996 we opened Sea Center Texas and since that time we have had almost 600,000 visitors to that facility. In 1996 we also opened the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and since that time we have had almost 400,000 visitors to that facility. Since 1996 we have stocked over 431 million fingerlings into Texas coastal and freshwaters. We’ve completed, developed and implemented the Seagrass Conservation Plan. We have completed all of our freshwater inflow studies to all major Texas estuaries. Florida bass stocking programs and regulations have increased the number of lakes that produce lunkers by over 55 percent. We have maintained a winter trout fishery in 82 sites, stocking over 2.5 million rainbow trout. In 2002 we initiated an Abandoned Crab Trap Clean-up Program. We held an event in 2002 and another in 2003 and we have collected over 12,000 abandoned crab traps out of the coastal waters of Texas. We have increased the number of public hunting opportunity days statewide by 57 percent and have added an additional 27,000 acres of land to our Wildlife Management Areas. We have taken over 950,000 children across Texas to their first fishing or hunting opportunity at 4,000 different events. We have established a statewide youth-only weekend hunting season for deer, wild turkey, waterfowl and squirrels. We have also established 38 new artificial reefs, bringing in $5.2 million in donations.
The second question that kept coming up is: Why do we need additional revenue? We need additional revenue to address inflation and increased expenses. We have had a number of increased costs since 1996 such as salary increases, and other effects of inflation. Since 1996, we have had an average inflation rate of 2.5 percent per year. We need to address Chronic Wasting Disease, putting additional game wardens in the field, aging fish hatcheries, as well as providing additional technical guidance on private lands. Our freshwater stamp will help, but additional fees will help in the interim. We also have aquatic vegetation control issues and golden algae research to conduct, as directed by the legislature; in addition to the retirement incentive package that was passed. A conservative estimate is that the retirement incentive bill could impact us by approximately $1 million. It will probably cost us more than that since we will have to transfer 30 percent of their salary to the Comptroller even though the retirement bill states that the employees’ incentive will be 25 percent of their annual salary.
In considering the fee increase, we did not propose to increase the senior combo, the senior super-combo, the resident special hunting, the resident special fishing or the stamps. This was done so that we would not impact the older citizens or our recruitment efforts for youth. Some of the key licenses that are proposed for fee increases include: super-combo package from $49 to $59; resident hunting from $19 to $23; non-resident hunting from $250 to $300; resident fishing from $19 to $23 and non-resident fishing from $30 to $50.
These figures are within the seven-year inflation value estimate of what they should be at this point if you applied inflation to them.
When we published the fee increase information in the Texas Register, a proposal to increase the duplicate Texas Conservation Passport was included. State Parks is currently in the process of conducting a full evaluation of the Texas Conservation Passport and the duplicate Texas Conservation Passport so we propose to remove that from consideration for increase at this time. It is estimated that the proposed increase would produce about $10.2 million per year for hunting and fishing license fees.
In regard to boat registration fees, the last time fees were increased was in 1996. Texas ranks among the top five states in terms of boat registration and titling. A fee increase would allow us to redesign and update our boat registration system, increase boat theft enforcement, address boating fuel costs for law enforcement, address increase costs for BWI enforcement and address a piece of legislation that provides us the opportunity to split the revenue from boat registration – 15 percent to State Parks with the remaining 85 percent to remain in Fund 9. Boat registration fees are good for two years. One of the proposed increases would be to raise the registration fee for boats less than 16-foot from $25 to $30. By raising fees we anticipate generating an additional $3.6 million in revenue.
We conducted public hearings in seven cities around the state and only received 219 comments. Of those opposed, the economy and the additional impacts to individual budgets were the main concerns expressed.
When estimating the amount of revenue a fee increase would generate, a 4 percent reduction was included. This was based on statistics from the last two fee increases, which resulted in a short-term 4 percent reduction in sales. Based on the number of comments and due to the public relations and communication that we have had regarding the fees that will be increased, we believe we will not have a 4 percent reduction this time.
Commissioner Ramos asked if we had checked into setting fees for bass tournaments. Mr. Durocher noted that it was his understanding that there is some discussion in the legislature about conducting an interim study on this issue. Mr. Durocher also stated that we are currently communicating with other states to see what they are doing in regard to fees for tournaments and what amount of revenue is being generated.
This item was placed on the Thursday commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
5. Boat Registration Revised Decal
Presenter: Ms. Frances Stiles
Ms. Stiles presented the Commission with samples of the proposed boat registration decal. The new design will add an individualized serial number to each decal set; reduce the amount of stock ordered and held in our inventories; and we can expand the issuance of these decals to our 130 county offices that cannot currently issue them at this time. This can be accomplished without a significant cost increase to the Agency. By adopting the new boat registration decal it will allow our offices to carry only one decal per year; therefore, reducing the inventory we are currently required to have on hand at each location. The new decal is similar to vehicle registrations; however, we are currently working to ensure that they are designed to withstand elements such as rain, sun and saltwater. One of the advantages would include better law enforcement, since law enforcement could match the decals to the boats and their owners. The identification number will also be useful for inventory and tracking purposes. We currently have 130 county offices registering boats; however they cannot issue decals. When we have a revised automated system, they will be able to issue these decals, and that system is projected for implementation in August 2004. This is an area of customer service that the county offices have expressed an interest in participating. By expanding this decal out to the counties, we anticipate a postage savings of approximately $9,000. The design allows us to use the decal in a pre-printed format and can be used on a high-speed printer. We are also reviewing our project plan for the revised automated system that would allow individuals to apply for their renewal over the Internet and have their decals mailed to them.
Commissioner Ernest Angelo, Jr. adjourned the Finance Committee.
(This item will be an oral presentation.)
Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Mary Fields
2004 Operating and capital
TPWD Investment Policy
and Budget Policy
(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 9.)
Agenda Item No. 3
Presenters: Frances Stiles
Implementation of HB 2926
– Marine Dealers Bill
(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 12 .)
- Marine Dealer Regulations
- Boat Decal Placement for Antique Boats
- Boat Ownership and Accident Record Fees
- Bonded Titles for Boats
Agenda Item No. 4
Presenter: Julie Horsley
Chapter 53 License Fee Adjustments
(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 13.)
- Non Resident Guide
- Commercial Shrimp License Surcharge
- Lake Texoma Fishing License
- Elimination of Conservation Permit
- Honorary Citizen (definition issue)
Agenda Item No. 5
Presenter: Walt Dabney
Chapter 59 Park Fee Range
(This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 14.)
Agenda Item No. 6
Presenter: Tim Hogsett
- Outdoor Grants – (This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 4.)
- Regional Grants – (This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 5.)
- Small Community Grants – (This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 6.)
- National Recreational Trail Grant Fund Awards– (This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 7.)
- Target Range Grants – (This is Public Hearing Agenda Item No. 8.)
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