Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Finance Committee Meeting
Nov. 3, 2004Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 3rd day of November, 2004, 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 Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: As Chairman, I convene the meeting of the Finance Committee. The first order of business is approval of the Committee minutes, which have been distributed. Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It's seconded. All in favor say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The motion carries.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have one, sorry. On page 27, line 19, it should have the word "of." Expenditure of debt. So I don't sound too inarticulate.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Is that acceptable to the motion?
COMMISSIONER WATSON: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The minutes are approved.
MR. COOK: Good job. Great catch.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I was worried somebody would say that.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The minutes will stand approved as corrected. Chairman's Charges, Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I don't have any particular charges to report on. I think we are moving along fine. I will have a little legislative update for you here in just a few minutes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you. Item 2, Financial Review Update.
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mary Fields, Chief Financial Officer. And I am here to provide the financial review. The focus of our presentation today will be to provide a revenue and budget status for Fiscal Year 2004 and 2005, and update you on the progress we have made on the Business Improvement Plan.
We'll start out with the 2004 revenue and budget status. When comparing state park receipts for Fiscal Year 2004, we are up 6.5 percent or $1.9 million over last year's collections. A million of the growth is from gross receipts, which includes growth in facilities and activity fees and $900,000 of that overall increase results from the sales of our State Park Pass. This is actually a 36 percent increase in sales from the prior year with the Texas Conservation Pass. So we are seeing a lot of success with the State Park Pass.
With boat revenue for Fiscal Year 2004 we were up 26.4 percent, or $4.15 million compared to last year. As I mentioned throughout the year, this increased revenue relates primarily to increased fees. The number of boat registrations was actually down by 5 percent, when compared to the prior year, and the number of titles issued was down by 7 percent. We continue to transfer 15 percent of the registration and titling revenue to Fund 64, and as of August 31, that total was over $2.6 million that was transferred to Fund 64.
Our license sales revenues for 2004, we were at $80.2 million, which is up $12.35 million as compared to last year, or 18.2 percent. This correlates pretty close with the fee increase, which was roughly 20 percent last year. Looking at the specific categories, combo revenue was up 19 percent, fishing revenue was up 20 percent, hunting was up 24 percent, and the other license category was up by about 10 percent.
Looking at licenses sold, we are very close to the total sold last year, with a slight increase of .4 percent. Hunting was up 2.8 percent. Fishing was down 1.6. Total combo, we're down by 2.9. While some of these sales do show a decrease, it is not the 4 percent decrease that we had expected as a result of the fee increases.
MR. COOK: Well, I think it is very commendable to everyone involved. The commissioners, the staff, the support that we have across the state — that total numbers sold, you know when you are comparing apples and apples here is slightly up. It is incredible. I am kind of like Clay Brewer said a while ago, I think good rains have helped us a bunch. But that is a real important set of numbers, and any time we do a fee increase in any area, that we want to be very careful with how we do it. The rates that we go at, and how we explain why we are doing it. And so I just had to make that comment. I think that is a very important slide right there.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And Mr. Cook, pardon me. To add to that I think that the Commission should really look upon our outdoor writers. Everyone of them basically supported these increases.
MR. COOK: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And when you have the support of those people, you are going to be successful.
MR. COOK: Well, I think that one of the Charges that we all took upon ourselves when we started into even considering the fee increases was to involve constituents, involve our writers involve others, and people who are impacted. And support was there.
MS. FIELDS: Moving on, just discussing all of those sales, this slide kind of pulls all of that together in looking at the revenue collections by fund, and comparing that to what our revenue estimates were. And when you compare our revenue collections, we collected about 15 percent more in Fund 9, our Game, Fish and Water Safety, and our State Park Fund. You can see the actual percentages there at 114.4 percent for Game, Fish and Water and 115.7 for State Park.
The Local Park Fund came in slightly over the estimate at 101.2, and the other category that includes several of our smaller dedicated accounts came in at 147.1 of the estimate. A couple of the funds that contributed to that other category were the Lifetime License Endowment Account and the Artificial Reef, and Non-Game and Endangered Species were a few that came in over the estimate.
In reviewing our budget versus expense, you can see we are showing $64.7 million available as of August 31. And that is 20 percent of the budget remaining.
I do want to tell you that we are closely monitoring the 2004 budget and a lot of this balance that you are seeing available is going to be carried forward into Fiscal Year 2005. The capital projects, those construction, unexpended balances, there are $46.1 million. That is going to move forward. A vast majority of that grant balance is federal funds. That is going to carry forward into Fiscal Year 2005.
So in looking at really, where '04 stands as of the end of October, we are looking at leaving about roughly 1 to 1 2 percent of the budget that we actually lapsed authority on, which is pretty good. And what that means is, we have lapsed the spending authority for '04, but the cash will remain in the funds. And the remainder of that will carry forward into '05 and we'll spend it in '05.
In summarizing the budget adjustments for '04, the last time I reported to you was at the end of June, so we had $1.7 million of adjustments that took our budget to $323.6 million. Adjusting federal funds, we did have that $1.3 million. Of that, there was one grant in particular for $978,000 that related to the Texas State Railroad. There is a project out there for ADA efforts, and there is various construction, I guess, going on out there at the railroads. So, that adjustment brought in some T21 funds from TxDOT. We are partnering with several partners on that project.
And let's see, let's move into 2005. This 2005 only includes one month of activity, so I am going to keep this fairly brief. With this month, with the meeting coming so close in November, we haven't been able to pull together all the October activity. So in looking at the state park revenue, we are at $2.3 million, or 25.3 percent. Or excuse me, revenue is up $2.3 million in '05. It is up 25.3 percent, or $467,000 roughly. The entrance and facility fees account for a good portion of that increase. The park pass sales are also looking good.
Our boat revenue as of September 30 is at $1.6 million. This is up 22.5 percent, or $293,000 compared to last year. This month's activity actually reflects an increase in the number of boat registrations and titles that have been issued over the prior year. I think it is a little bit higher because we were taking care of some backlog of summer county activity. So, I think this is going to level off a little bit in October. But this is where we stood as of the end of September for boat revenue.
Our license sales revenue, as of September 30, we were at $38.6 million. I want to call attention to the yellow box at the top of the FY '05 chart. You are going to see the Freshwater Fish Stamp, the little yellow box there at the top. That is a new stamp for Fiscal Year '05, and it represents additional revenue that would not be comparable to FY '04 so when you look at our revenue up at 3 percent, or $1.2 million, that includes the stamp. The Freshwater Fish Stamp is at about $1.5 million, as of this time frame. So if you were to look at the chart without that little yellow box on the top, we would really be very close to where we were last year, when comparing to FY '04. We are slightly behind by about $300,000 which is less than 1 percent. So, we are looking pretty good. When you look at those specific categories, combo revenue is up 1.6 percent. Fishing is up 1. Hunting is down 2.6 percent and other licenses are down by about 9 percent.
Correlating the number of licenses sold to that revenue, again, that Freshwater Fish Stamp is playing a little bit of a role there in the 1.6 million over the 1.3. We are showing a 23.5 percent increase, but again, that is relating to that stamp. There are 311,000 Fresh Water Fish Stamps. So again, when you look kind of between the two years, we are very comparable. Let's see. We are actually about 3,000 licenses behind out of that 1.3 million. So you know, it is .25 of 1 percent. We are looking good there.
And considering the revenues that I have discussed, let us take a look at the revenue collections for September as compared to the annual revenue estimates. With 8 percent of the fiscal year elapsed, we have collected 25.7 percent of our Game, Fish, and Water Safety Account, 9.3 percent of the State Park Account, 8.1 percent of Local Parks, and 40.6 percent of our Other Dedicated Accounts. That again is those few small accounts together, and the Lifetime License Endowment Fund and the Shrimp Buyback Fund are both pretty high. Lifetime License is at 60 percent. So that is what is driving that 40 percent number you are seeing in the other category. And when you really compare this activity to where we were last year, we are running ahead on both the Game, Fish, and Water Safety and the State Park Fund. Running a little bit ahead of where we were in September of last year.
Just since we are only one month into the year, I am not going to give you a lot of detail on our budget versus expense. We are tracking very well with 92.1 percent of the budget remaining and 8 percent of the fiscal year elapsed. So all of the categories are tracking just as we would expect.
Our summary of budget adjustments for the month of September, for FY '05 budget, we had $3.25 million of adjustments that took our budget to $282.4 million. A lot of the adjustments, as you can see, relate to the $2.5 million of unexpended balances that I was talking about earlier. You are going to see those coming into the '05 budget as the year progresses.
And finally, I want to just give you a quick update on the Business Improvement Plan. We have completed three items since we talked about this in August. So we have 84 of the 94 items complete, which is 90 percent. Six percent of the items are at least 70 percent complete and four percent of the items are below 60 percent complete. When you look at those remaining ten items that are out there, seven of them are scheduled to be complete by the end of this fiscal year, and three of them are tied to automated system changes that are going to occur over the following couple of fiscal years.
So, I would suspect that by the end of this year, we will probably conclude our discussion of the Business Improvement Plan, and just tie those last couple of recommendations to our automated system updates. And that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any questions or discussion? It is a great year. Thank you, Mary.
Mr. Cook, legislative overview?
MR. COOK: Thank you very much. I want to take just a few minutes to tell you a little bit about where we are. You folks all saw through the Spring and Summer preparation of our Legislative Appropriation Request. We did submit that on time, as you know, back in mid-August.
And I guess I want to start this briefing with you with this. We continue to — we have already been down at the Capitol a dozen times now on various committees and individual visits, and that kind of thing. And we'll continue to do so through the fall. We appreciate your participation when you have the opportunity and we'll try to keep you advised, as far as we can tell in advance, when there is any committee meetings of any significance. You are always invited and welcome, and we'll try to let you know about those meetings as soon as we know about them, so that if you happen to be in town, or can come in, we would love to have you.
What we continue to run into at the Capitol is a lot of friends, a lot of support. I tell people in the field this all the time. I think the reason that we have the support that we have, that we have the trust and the credibility that we have, is because of the job that the people within the Department — scattered across the state, whether it's in fisheries, salt water, fresh water, law enforcement, at our parks, our wildlife guys working with landowners and hunters, whoever it is throughout the group, it is the job that they do every day and the people that they run into every day that the credit goes to. And I sincerely mean that. They do a tremendous job. We don't have to walk in and convince people who we are or what we do. They have already encountered that in the field. And it is a very good thing, a very helpful thing for us, as opposed to many other agencies, and much appreciated.
Sort of just a quick summary. Our LAR, our Legislative Appropriations Request, we had a total request this time, as you may remember of $555 million for the biennium. Now that included $148 million of exceptional item requests. Things that kind of were above the baseline. You will also recall that in that request, as per the instructions received, that we took a 5 percent reduction in the base from where we were. Where we started. So those factors really all come into play as we started preparing that request.
In that request, where we are right now — we have been downtown, as I said, and we have spoken to the Senate Finance Committee, LBB, had individual meetings with Mr. Heflin, Mr. Pickett, several of the folks who are going to be involved in this process. Mr. Averitt in the Senate. Again, all supportive, all looking for ways, I think, to help.
Our priority items, as you saw listed in our LAR, the number one priority item that we have continues to be a funding request for the Prop 8 type repairs, the major repairs, the big projects. And that request in our LAR was $26 million for the biennium. The bottom line there is to take care of what we have, to keep what we have safe, to keep it accessible, and to keep our wastewater systems functioning properly. We feel like we have got to have some help there.
Second on our list was to restore the operating part of that 5 percent reduction. Now, we didn't ask for all of that $16 million cut back, but we did ask as our number two priority for about $5 million of that $16 million, which was directly out of our operating, directly out of FTEs and money that we would use to pay the bills. We asked for that back.
Our third item was to provide additional funding for our state parks. And the truth there is, as we have discussed before, we are absolutely running on the edge as far as FTEs, as far as our ability to do small repairs and maintenance. Fuel costs, all of those issues, we just — our folks in the parks do a great job, but they are stretched awfully thin where we are right now.
Fourth priority is this business of funding for vehicles, replacement vehicles and equipment. And I can't emphasize to you, nor to the people that we have been talking to, the critical nature of this request. We have been under a freeze for a whole variety of reasons, us and other agencies. And this request includes replacement of about 667 new vehicles during this upcoming biennium. That's a lot of vehicles. That is about a third or somewhere around a third to 25 percent of our entire fleet, statewide — replacement vehicles. One of the key factors here is the state puts out guidelines that tells us — here is how you ought to manage your fleet, you know, and in certain by the time they get to be seven or eight years old, you should replace them. By the time they get 110,000 miles, you should replace them.
Well, the news is, and this is not news to you folks, that right now, over a third, 35 percent of our entire vehicle fleet exceeds both of those criteria.
Over 50 percent of our entire fleet exceeds the age criteria. So, we are moving vehicles from this organization to that part of the organization in order to keep the people who are pulling boats and doing heavy duty work, enforcement work, that kind of stuff, moving vehicles that have 130, 140, 150,000 miles onto our parks, so that we can get by. So that is a really important item, and one that I certainly hope we can get addressed.
And of course, our Fresh Water Fisheries Stamps, we included that in our priority exceptional items to be able to utilize those funds in the construction of the new hatchery as we have talked about.
As we have gone through this process, we got some immediate feedback, particularly from Senate Finance regarding — okay, guys, we hear you. We understand. We know that you have some fund balances available. We understand that you did fee increases. We kind of reminded them of that a little bit. But prior to us doing that fee increase, we went down and had that discussion with leadership at the Capitol. And we talked about it. We talked about why we were doing it, and what it would be used for, et cetera. Those fee increases, over this biennium, as Mary just reported to you, are generating about an additional $40 million.
So they came back to us and they said — how much of your priority items, how much of your exceptional items, which of those can you fund utilizing your revenues available? So we have responded back to them in writing, to Mr. Heflin and Mr. Ogden and the folks there, pretty well covering this top four, five, six items. The one that we don't feel like we can cover is that long-term commitment to the Prop 8 Bond funding. And that is one that we feel like we just need to leave there and continue to request their help with some GR on. We need it. It is the number one priority, but because of the long-term nature of it and because of trying to balance the other needs within the Agency, particularly in the state park area. We have got enough money to do a couple of the things there that we talked about in state parks. We can help if they will allow us to use our balances. So we have had a good exchange there.
One of the issues that we ran into there was: yes, we know you have got some more money, but possibly we could use that, not spend that money, but leave it in the balances to help us balance the books at the end of the day.
I was very careful in how I responded to that, but I explained how important that it was to us and to our constituents that we did a fee increase. We did it with a purpose; we explained why we were doing it and how that money would be used and that I hoped that we would be allowed to use it for those purposes, that I didn't think that there was a lot of room right now, and we got asked this question: Are there other areas where you can do more fee increases? Well, the answer to that is yes, there are, but there is not very many. One of the things that we are talking about right now with some of our constituents, advisory groups, and within the organization, is this game bird consolidation.
The Game Bird Stamp consolidation. We believe that that process will generate some additional funding, but again, if we are going to ask our constituents to bear that additional cost, we certainly want to be able to use those revenues for those purposes, as determined by the Commission.
We are explaining those things as we go along, and as we get the opportunity, we are talking to everybody in the hallways down there: staff, and the elected officials, and leadership. And as you get the opportunity to, your help is incredibly important and valuable to us. So that is kind of where we are.
You know, in listening to, for instance, Mr. Heflin, who is such a supporter and a friend of the Agency, clearly whoever is involved in the Legislative process this time down there, they have got some issues that are dominating their thinking. And we want to be helpful.
We don't want to be part of the problem. But I know that they are going to be wrestling with some huge issues that I figure, if we can make their life simple, that is part of our objective and to be helpful to them. So that is where we kind of are, and I would be glad to address any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Commissioner Henry?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Mr. Chairman, I would like to also report that a little over a month ago, the Gov's State Cultural and Recreational Resources Committee was hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership in Houston and Commissioner Holmes and I attended that meeting, along with Mr. Cook and other members of staff. Former Commissioner Hixon was also there, speaking on behalf of Government Canyon, there just to report. I think the Agency was very well received, and I had some very favorable comments coming out of that session as well.
MR. COOK: Great support.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any other questions for Mr. Cook? Thank you.
MR. COOK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Committee item 4. Local Park Regs, Rule Amendments. Tim?
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning. Commissioners, I am Tim Hogsett from Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division. This morning we are asking for your permission to publish rule changes to our park grant programs. We do this approximately every four years. The last review of rules was in the year 2000, and that included administrative rules and the priority scoring systems that we use to rank projects in these various programs.
The programs that we were reviewing included all of the programs under the Texas Recreation and Parks Account, the Sporting Goods Tax Receipts Account 467. Those include outdoor, indoor, community outdoor outreach, regional parks and small community grants.
And we also are about to begin the process of reviewing the rules for our Federal Recreation Trails Grant Program. The process begins right around the first of the year. It is approximately a year-long process of various public input, hearings, as such.
We did a survey. A wide number of folks were surveyed. Over 2,000 surveys, and we received input on various issues by that method. We did a staff retreat to talk about what we as staff thought needed possibly to be revised. We held a focus group meeting which was in effect, the Parks and Local Parks Advisory Board, your Local Parks Advisory Board, plus we invited a few additional recent grant sponsors to that.
We did eight public hearings around the state. We had a total of 178 people come out for those hearings, so I think that was a good representation. As you can see, they were clearly all over the state, so that we got fair representation. And the two major categories that we were reviewing included, as I said, the priority ranking system for each of these programs and the administrative rules and practices — how we do business with our park grant programs.
First I would like to talk about — first let me say that there were very few real substantive concerns out there. Throughout the process we basically heard that people were satisfied with the rules that you have previously adopted — the scoring systems, the way we do business. There were a few things that people felt like deserved some attention and some tweaking.
In the priority ranking systems, all of these programs have priority ranking systems, so for the purposes of where I haven't identified a specific program, these kinds of tweaking or changes would apply to all of the grant program priority ranking systems. They all have fairly similar criteria across the board.
First, there was quite a bit of concern about the fact that, particularly in the outdoor recreation, the large $500,000 grant program, that in the last number of reviews you've almost had to have had a joint acquisition and development project to be funded.
So we heard a number of people say that they felt like development only projects were important still and that we ought to consider reducing the priority for acquisition projects. And that is one of the proposals that we are putting before you.
Another issue is, and this was both from urban areas and from small communities, that they have existing infrastructure as we do in our state parks system that is aging and that is legitimately not lack of maintenance, but legitimately aging facilities that need to be replaced. So they asked that we consider raising the priority of renovation projects in our priority ranking system.
We have a process where local grant sponsors can use the value of land that they own which has not ever been dedicated for park purposes, as match. Under the current system, we however, do not award priority points for that as considered as being acquisition. In other words, it is existing property that they already own. A lot of folks feel like that since it isn't currently in the park estate, that it should be viewed the same as if they were acquiring new property. So we are making that proposal.
In the priority ranking system, we currently give priority to people that ask for their highest priority locally identified recreation needs, identified in a local master plan, and it is a fairly complex system that we use. It is a little difficult frankly, for our customers to understand. So we are proposing to dramatically simplify that process. Basically, we would just look at the top five needs in their priority master plan, and if they met one through five needs, give them a certain amount of points, and then less for each of the less numbers of needs that they met.
In the Community Outdoor Outreach Program, that is you probably will recall, those are program grants to underserved populations to introduce people that may not have the opportunity to outdoor recreation experiences. Typically, those are $30,000 grants, and they are to non-profit organizations, some of them to local governments, but more often, non-profits. And we are finding a trend where some of those projects are leaving money on the table. And as extremely competitive as that program is, and given that in the case of these non-profits, they are usually small organizations which have limited funds to begin with. For the ones that are leaving money on the table, we are proposing actually some penalty points in the scoring systems that would reduce a score for a subsequent application from a sponsor who had left some money behind on a closed project.
Proposing equalizing youth-at-risk points for our indoor program with those of the outdoor recreation grant program, initially, we thought that possibly indoor kinds of venues lent themselves better to at-risk-youth kinds of programs; but in the course of the public hearings, sponsors told us that they did not feel that that was the case — that outdoor and indoor venues were very similar in the opportunities that they provided for youth-at-risk.
In the administrative practices, again, very few changes from current practices are being recommended. Probably the largest one, the one that may be of most interest to you is, currently you have a policy in place that says if a grant applicant comes forward with a new application that we review their progress and expenditure rates on any active approved applications that they have in place. And currently, the rule is that if they have more than $1 million outstanding in approved active projects, that they can't be considered for a new grant.
We are proposing to go to $2 million, primarily because of the introduction, since this rule was put into place of our Regional Park Grant Program. You may recall that those are much larger grants. They are in the neighborhood of a million and a half to $2 million.
The concern of this was primarily coming from the urban areas who have large needs and have the ability to do larger projects and they were telling us that they just felt like $1 million basically wasn't buying what it did in 2000. And also with the introduction of these regional park grants, that it made it tough for them. So we think that this is a fair exchange for that.
We also heard from the urban areas. Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio in particular, those three, that they really have greater needs and they feel, paying the larger share of the bill in terms of the sales of sporting goods. Most of the folks who live in those large communities is where most of the sporting goods tax are being generated from.
We currently have in place a rule that says you can only apply as a government entity for one application in any given review round. We are proposing that in these large metropolitan areas, to let them apply for more than one grant, still subject, all of the applications to the same priority ranking system. But should they be successful in having two projects that are competitive and rise above where we need to draw the line, considering funding more than one project in a given round.
I mentioned master plans earlier. The master plans that are being done locally to qualify for a priority ranking points, local governments are telling — currently we say that those plans need to be revised every five years. Most of the input was that they are really good for longer than that, from their perspective, at a local level. So we are proposing to extend the eligibility from five to ten years but still require them every two years to at least go back and revisit their priority rankings, local priority list, and decide whether or not those need to be updated, whether things have been completed, or whether even through politics and other changes, changes need to be made. But the basic background materials, such as surveys and other background materials be eligible for long term use.
You probably will recall that we are carrying a quite large balance in our motorized trail grant, in our Recreation Trails Grant Program, as it relates to motorized trail grants. Those federal funds are required to be eligible for both non-motorized and motorized purposes. Motorized purposes, since that is who is basically paying the bill. Off-road vehicle fuel taxes are paying the bill for that program. We have not really had as much success as we would have liked finding applicants for that program. We currently limit those to non-profit and local government entities.
There are some private concerns out there, who we think might be able to provide these opportunities. So we are going to propose that you allow us to open that door for private concerns to come in and compete for those funds. We will carefully manage them, should they be successful, make sure that public accessibility is maintained. We just think that it is a needed opportunity to hopefully be able to spend those dollars and to provide those deserved facilities for the folks that enjoy that activity.
Proposing to change Community Outdoor Outreach application deadline back a month from March 1 to February 1. Mainly, that is to allow time for after approval of projects, for people to have time to get ready to go for a summer program. Many of these programs involve youth and they involve the school year, and they are performed during the summer, so people said they would like to have a little more time between the time projects are reviewed and the time that the program is actually implemented.
Again, as I said, in general, the rule changes and the scoring criteria changes that we're recommending are minor in scope and won't really dramatically alter our existing procedures. And we are asking your permission to publish these draft rules in the Texas Register. We would come back to you for proposed adoption in January, and we would be glad to brief any of you more thoroughly, if you would like one-on-one, about the details of our proposal. We would be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Mr. Hogsett. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The Community Outdoor Outreach and Trails programs only allow one grant per urban area, right now? For metro areas?
MR. HOGSETT: COOP is a bit different in that those are mostly non-profits, and you can have more than one non-profit. It is in the outdoor, and the indoor, the regional, and the small communities programs, where we are saying only one application per review.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Who is limited to what? Which entities?
MR. HOGSETT: Local governments in the programs for indoor recreation grants, outdoor grants, small community grants, and regional grants. We limit those to one application currently per review cycle from a sponsor.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: On regional, I know that is not the topic, but on regional, are we limiting people in those programs in the big urban areas arbitrarily too much, do you think?
MR. HOGSETT: Probably so, and that is part of the reason that the proposal is to go to multiple applications. And regionals are unique in that they involve partnerships as well.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I am focusing on the exception here, of COOP and Trails being excepted out. I am assuming that means they are still limited to one?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Should we not review that also?
MR. HOGSETT: I would be glad to, if you would like to.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I like your changes. I think there's a lot of good thinking on the list, there. It makes a lot of sense from a policy standpoint. I just question that one. Maybe we ought to go back and add that.
MR. HOGSETT: What we could do is go back specifically to some of those constituents and ask them that question directly. And if it looks like that is the way they want to go, then yes, we could make that change in our proposal for January.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Yes. Because if it makes sense in one area, it probably is applicable to the others.
MR. HOGSETT: Sure.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Tim, I know that all of these projects that are submitted to you are much needed projects. I had thought that perhaps in an effort to ensure that these funds go to more communities over the years that perhaps we might consider either penalizing someone for having received funds, let us say, during the last year or two years, to where you don't necessarily go down the bottom of the list, but that you give more opportunities to those communities that have not had the benefit of a grant of some sort.
And I don't have the answer, but that concept, to where, for example, if the City of Laredo received money last year, they are not eligible for a year or two years, three years, or some time period, so that other communities may step in and have perhaps a higher priority. I don't have the answer, but that is the overall concept. Have you given some thought to that?
MR. HOGSETT: I wouldn't personally philosophically disagree with that. That is part one of the reasons, for example, that we have these caps on how much you can ask for — $500,000 cap for outdoor to try to spread the money around a little more.
But I can tell you from having been out on the road and done eight public hearings and those particularly in the urban areas, they would be strongly opposed to that. They feel like they have needs on a regular basis, and that they are footing the bill, if you will for the majority of the income from sporting goods tax. You know, that is just your call, I guess.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It just seems to me that the smaller communities may not be fitting into the program as frequently as the larger communities.
MR. HOGSETT: Really, they are. We have been told that there is a misconception, I will say, especially in the Outdoor Grant Program, the $500,000 grants, that smaller communities cannot compete as well. Well, I can show you the last four or five or six lists and at least in the top three or four projects you are going to find a couple of small communities almost every time.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My idea is more in terms of distributing to everyone and a particular project may not priority-wise fit our needs as best as another one, but that particular community may have prioritized it, and they haven't received funds in five or six years.
And I don't have the answer, but the only thing I would ask you is that you consider that in the formula to try and distribute the funds, especially to those communities that have not received funds or have not received funds in many years. That is my only suggestion.
MR. HOGSETT: I will do the same. As I said on this previous question, let me go back to some of the constituents and maybe identify some folks that haven't received money and ask them the question versus asking the same question of some of these that are regularly here in front of us.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I guess the bigger question, Mr. Ramos, is, are the criteria by which we judge and measure the requests fair? And do you consider time for not having received a grant as part of the fair criteria versus another demonstrated need that presumably our criteria currently addresses.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Mr. Chairman, I would also remind the Commission that we dealt with this issue two years ago, and changed the criteria to some extent, whereby we would not only allow, but encourage more small communities to apply; and under different camps were able to receive more grants.
MR. HOGSETT: We actually developed a new program for that.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Yes.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I am not so much worried as the size of the community, as much as the recipient. In other words, all I am saying is if a small community got X number of dollars, then perhaps that community should be out of the system maybe for a year or two years so that other comparable or larger communities who have not had the benefit of funds will have some degree of priority than that community, be it big or small, that have already received funds. That is all I am saying.
MR. HOGSETT: I understand.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My idea is not so much that we discriminate between communities as much as you get funds, you move down to some level to let other communities who have not received funds to be perhaps at a little bit of an edge, or a little bit of it better. But that — and I don't want to focus on small versus large, just a matter of who has gotten funds.
MR. HOGSETT: I understand.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Tim, I don't know if this is the right place to say this or not, but in our five to ten-year overall plan that the Commission established a couple of years ago, we are still looking for those approximately 5,000 acre state parks that we need to strategically locate around the new golden triangle of Texas. And you are one of the best money hounds that I have ever seen for going out and getting this money. I don't know whether [inaudible] will get it, but you are doing a good job at it. But anyhow, I am wondering if some of this effort might should be cornered into these larger metropolitan areas that they think about maybe going outside of their metropolitan area to look for and locate some of these parks we have got in our B
MR. HOGSETT: That is really what our Regional Park Grant Program is designed to encourage.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And how are we getting along on that?
MR. HOGSETT: Well, the projects that we have done thus far with the Regional Park Grant Program are large grants. They are for, in most cases, conservation kinds of projects. They are for large acquisitions of land, and most of them have a relationship with, for example a linear corridor or some other very important conservation element. I think that is our best opportunity to channel at least park grant funds into helping in that effort.
You know, we are prohibited from putting this money into the state park program, but we can certainly help local governments fit into the niche of helping to provide for sort of the go-between, between what we would call the state park and what they would call the regional park.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Commissioner Montgomery.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I just had a suggestion regarding Commissioner Ramos' point, and when you come back and talk about it, I would be curious to know to the extent we actually have that problem or not. Is it a problem we have or anticipate one we might have?
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Yes, sir.
MR. COOK: I feel compelled to again, in going back to my legislative update, as it relates to this very popular, very well run program. The local park funding has been cut to a bare minimum. And part of our Legislative Appropriation Request continues to be to restore some of that funding via GR. And I want you to remember that, and we certainly had every opportunity at every session to emphasize to leadership downtown and to the elected officials how important that program is and right now, where we are sitting is not a very pleasant future, unless we get some additional funding in this program, so I just want to note that.
MR. HOGSETT: And in that regard, these rule changes that we are proposing take into consideration — and we told people in our public hearings, current funding levels. If we receive another drastic cut in the amount of money that we have available, we are going to be compelled to come back to you and ask for a complete re-looking at the entire rule program, and scoring systems, and how we do business.
MR. COOK: It's a great program.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Very popular. Any further discussion.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: With no further questions or discussion, without objection, I authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Cook, any other business before this Committee?
MR. COOK: No, sir, I don't think so. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Hearing none, we have completed our business.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 3, 2004
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 36, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
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