Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Nov. 4, 2009Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of November, 2009, 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:
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas (Absent)
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The first order of business of the Finance Committee is the approval of the previous Committee minutes which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Commissioner Bivins. Commissioner Martin seconds. All in favor, please say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Committee Item Number 1 will be the update on the Department's Progress in Implementing the Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter.
MR. SMITH: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just one quick comment to the Commission as one strategic plan ends so begins another one. And after the first of the year, we should be getting our instructions from the Legislative Budget Board with respect to the preparation of the Natural Agenda which is the strategic plan that the Legislature looks at to track and monitor our progress with respect to implementing key deliverables. Expect those instructions to come out, I presume, in February. We are looking at Tina Beck in the back there for a head nod of affirmation. So sometime after the first of the year we will be getting those instructions. And we will begin working on that. And obviously, we will keep you apprised of it. One of the important parts of having these two strategic plans for the Agency is making sure that we crosswalk appropriately between those plans, so that there is good connectivity. And so that is a key element that we are going to be looking at as we go to work on the Natural Agenda for the Legislature.
That plan I think as most of you know, also kind of sets the stage for the issues that we want to discuss with the Legislature and the oversight bodies with respect to our Legislative Appropriations Request for the impending biennium. So we look forward to working on that, and coming back and reporting to you all on the development of that. So Mr. Chairman, that is the only comment I have to make.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Thank you. Any questions?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Committee Item Number 2 is the Internal Audit reports recently concluded and Ongoing Internal Activities Reports and Approval of FY 10 Audit Plan. Mr. Carlos Contreras.
MR. CONTRERAS: Good morning, Chairman. Good morning, Commission members. For the record, my name is Carlos Contreras and I am the Director of Internal Audit. The last time we provided an update was in May. So I wanted to update you on the activities of our office, through the end of fiscal year 2009.
We completed eight rounds of State Park audits in fiscal year '09. The last two, Round 7, we had nine of the ten parks that we went to visit were compliant. The testing period was approximately 17 months after the criteria that we audit against was developed and provided to the parks. One of the good things about the and actually, this extends to Rounds 5 from Rounds 5 through 8 of '09 is that most of the parks that we have had that were compliant did not have any problems with the revenue processes. And all of the parks that we visited were free of any material errors in their visitation, recording errors in their visitation and collection and reporting processes.
For Round 8, we went to 11 parks. And again, it is the same story. We had ten of the 11 of them that were compliant, with basic procedures. The testing period for this was in May, which is 19 months after the criteria was developed. And again, we had ten of the 11 parks with good controls over the revenue and collection and reporting processes. And all of the parks were free of any recording errors for visitation, collection and reporting.
Now we started doing the State Park audits in October of 2007 under the direction of State Auditor recommendations in Report 07-021. And through the end of FY '09 for the parks that we had done our risk assessment for the '81, we had 79 of those, or 98 percent that were compliant at least once in the process, from October of 2007 through 8/31 of '09. And you can see the high risk parts, all 17 of those are compliant at least once, and high risk is defined as having high revenues and high visitation. So, State Parks has improved substantially from the previous year, as far as compliance with audits.
Now the rest of the 2009 Audit Plan, we had a key performance measure review, and this was issued in September. Now this audit that we did examined the Department's reporting of FY 2008 key performance measures which there were 20 of them. And then reporting to the LBB. And what we did for this audit is, we took the methodology that the SAO uses to conduct these audits. And we changed some aspects of it, so that we could use it here within the Agency. And using that same methodology, our results were that, of the 20 key measures that we looked at, 11 would be certified, two would be certified with qualifications. So that gives us a 65 percent 65 percent of the measures that we looked at, 13 out of the 20 would have been certified. Which means that what was reported would have been within a variance of plus or minus 5 percent, given our testing. But we did have 35 percent of them, six of them that were inaccurate and one that we weren't able to certify for various factors.
When we went in and looked at the 11 specific measures that the Department had stated that were that we had met the goals, after our review, we saw that seven of those 11 had actually met their goals. Two of the measures were reported by the division as being met, but they had numerous data errors, and that prevented the measures from meeting those targets. And two of the the remaining two measures, we couldn't determine whether they could meet the target because of the types of errors, and that the errors would cause difficulties and have an effect on our calculations to try to get to those numbers.
Now what we did with this audit was to write the report and elevate it to the level of the DEDs. Because of the types of errors that were out there, some were recording, some were approval, some were anyway a total of, a number of different types of errors occurred. So what we did is, we wrote our recommendation to say that we needed to take a look at correcting the weaknesses in the input process and review controls. And what we have done is, Internal Audit is working with each of the divisions. We are providing the information that we found, the results of the audits to the divisions for them to go ahead and develop their own corrective action plans and take the steps necessary to correct the process.
I will give you an example. We worked with the Wildlife Division, one of the first divisions. They had three key measures. One of which was accurate or certified, and the other two were inaccurate. Once we got the concurrence of management, and specifically, it was Clay Brewer and Clayton Wolf, once we received their concurrence as to what we found, they were very proactive in addressing those issues and directing their staff to take the necessary actions. And actually, we found most of the divisions were concurred with our results and have taken some sort of corrective actions.
We are also working with Julie Horsley and Administrative Resources because she is a conduit for the reporting of these to the LBB.
MR. SMITH: Carlos, would you give the Commission an example of what one of those performance measures might be in the Wildlife Division? I think it would probably help them to understand what that surveys, or
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes. One of the ones that comes to mind is the number of surveys that we completed. When we went out there, and took a look at that, there were surveys that were counted as each flight or each sortie, I believe. And Clay can probably elaborate on this a little better. But then there were also others, the Playa Lakes, and I believe some of the smaller ones where the they didn't count the number of sorties. They just counted that they did a survey. So it could have been a number of flights that they did to accomplish that one survey. So there were some some of the performance measures that we found, where we weren't giving ourselves enough credit for that.
And then on the flip side, since it is a manual process out in the field that turns into an automated process once we get the results here, there were some surveys that were counted more than once mistakenly. So what our recommendations were was to examine the entire process from the collection of them to the review, and finally, a transmittal here and the final approvals. And for them to send them on to the LBB.
The second audit that we did was an asset management audit. Again, issued in September of 2009. And some of the results of that was that asset reconciliation processes and entry preparation and approval needed improvement. The accountability for capitalizing controlled assets, that needed improvement. And the accounting related to purchased, donated and disposed assets.
And management has taken some action on that already. The AR Division now archives the reconciliations between IFS, which is our internal system, and SPA, which is the Statewide Property Accounting database, that is held by the Comptroller. And they do the reconciliations, and then they store them now on our N drive, and they have all the reconciling item dispositions that are noted.
Again, the AR Division sent out inquiries to various divisions to clear issues related to accounting for capitalized and controlled assets. And what we found when we went out there was that the proper custodian was not named for that asset, the serial number may have been wrong, there were a number of problems in that manner, and AR took the lead in going out and trying to get answers for a lot of those assets that were questionable.
And finally, procedures, they are usually in place. And we are suggesting that they be followed. Or they are being developed for proper accounting treatment of purchased, donated and disposed assets.
And for purchased assets, I know that the bid system is going to be instrumental in safeguarding a lot of those assets and then recording that information. AR is currently developing procedures for donated assets to ensure that anything that comes through the donations that are regularly accepted at each of our Commission meetings is recorded correctly.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Before you go on, what was the issue with purchased equipment or purchased items?
MR. CONTRERAS: We had a number of problems there. We had a number of assets that we were able to obtain the documentation for the purchase of it, but then on the back end, we could not find the assets, and we couldn't find either asset tags or custodians, any of the paperwork that went with it.
MR. SMITH: You couldn't find the records on the back end?
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes, sir.
MR. SMITH: Yes.
MR. CONTRERAS: And we don't know whether those assets were drop-shipped to, you know, other areas of the state, that type of thing.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you are saying that procedures in your view are now in place or the process is being developed to correct that?
MR. CONTRERAS: The procedures are out there for us. The problem in being decentralized is getting everybody to follow those procedures. And to do the documentation, provide the supporting documentation in a timely manner.
I think a lot of that happens and since some of our operational units, it is an administrative task. It maybe slides towards the back of their list and sometimes it gets overlooked. And I think a lot of it is human error. Just human nature when you overlook things.
MR. SMITH: Commissioner, going to your question, it is a management issue for us, in terms of making sure that our teams out in the field are complying with the procedures and processes that are already in place. So you know, if we get a shipment of multiple lawnmowers for instance to one park, and they are going to be distributed to multiple parks just for ease of transportation, we need to make sure at that juncture that we have taken the serial number. We have recorded that. We have clearly delineated what park that lawnmower will be assigned to, and who will have responsibility for it.
And in some cases, we have been inconsistent, I guess, in terms of making sure that gets done because maybe there wasn't clarity about whose responsibility that was. So it is incumbent upon management, working with our teams to make sure that happens in the future.
MR. CONTRERAS: Current audit assignments. We have the ongoing park audits that we started here, starting 9/1. We are about to kick off on next Monday, our fifth round of park audits for FY 2010.
We are doing a concession program follow-up. And that entails following up on the recommendations that were provided from an internal audit that we did in 2002, from the 07.021 audit that the SAO did, and from lease concession audits that we performed here in FY '08. And we are going back and looking to see whether those concession program was followed up on any of the recommendations.
We do have an active audit project. We are looking at the accounts payable function. And that has already been started.
We have one advisory assignment, and that is a business continuity plan revision. I am working with Steve Schroeter of the Infrastructure Division and representatives from each of the divisions in order to update this. And at Carter's request, we also have wanted to add information in there for especially contact information in the case that there would be a problem with the H1N1 flu upcoming, so that we have, I guess, a redundancy in the contact that we need for decision making, et cetera.
Now, tomorrow our office is going to be seeking the approval of the FY 2010 audit plan. And the audit plan requires the Commission approval per the Texas Government Code, Chapter 2102 which is the Internal Auditing Act. How did we get there? Our office performed an agency-wide risk assessment. We identified what we call auditable units. It could be programs, processes, systems that we can take a look at. We did some information gathering. We had surveys and interviews with management at all levels, and select staff. And our product is going to be program, operational type audits and IT projects.
Some other administrative items that we had completed was a distribution of our internal audit report. I sent that out last week. You all should have a copy. At the Commission retreat, I was able to get the sign-off on the audit charter revisions. And basically, there was some really insignificant things that we changed in there, but I think the biggest thing was to identify Commissioner Falcon as being our new Finance Committee Chairman.
And finally, as a result of the 81st Legislature, there was a request in there that for reporting and stimulus fund reporting requirements that each agency have a link to the SAO site for fraud, waste and abuse. It includes their hotline number, and it includes a link to their reporting, fraud, waste and abuse report form, and a number of ways to get in contact with them, either by mail, by phone or by internet. And we have completed that. And that is on our public web page. That concludes my presentation. If there are any questions?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: In your audit report back in April, you reported about this sand and gravel, Brazos Sand and Gravel not paying proper royalties? [inaudible].
MR. CONTRERAS: I am not sure, as far as if they are back in compliance.
MR. SMITH: Yes. It is a good question. I don't know the answer to that, but we can certainly find that out today for you. You know, we went through a process to come up with an agreed upon payment plan to rectify for the arrears that they were owed to us. I don't know the status of that. We had a trigger there, that if they were past due, we would be notified of that immediately. So I am assuming they are in compliance. But let us check on that for you.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I remember the whole group of us were, I don't think, pleased that they hadn't properly calculated nor paid. I would like to know where that stands.
MR. SMITH: Let us check on the status of that. We will get back to you on that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Carlos, one, I wanted to thank you for the work you have been doing here in tightening up our audit group; I think is doing well. And you remember, kind as you came aboard, we had just hired a whole lot of auditors. We had a lot of new people.
On the Parks audits, is that starting to settle out and smoothing out? People understanding in the field what needs to be done and how to do it, and what is the most efficient way to do it?
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes, sir. In my estimation, it is. The other thing is, that we moved away from that. What we are going to do now is, we've talked to Scott and to Walt and what we have agreed on is to do half the parks, I guess. So each park gets audited every other year.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. CONTRERAS: So but we did expand from 81 parks to 86. Because we did add some facilities where Walt specifically wanted us to go, parks that hadn't been taken a look at over the two years.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Good. Okay. So you are fairly comfortable with the way the program is now operating? Let's just start it from that point of view?
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes, sir. And I believe it has actually turned into somewhat of a competition for the parks. They all want to comply. So I think that that little intangible is probably works in our favor.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. It does, internally. And just to also let you know, of course, we went to this last Legislature. I mean, our credibility has risen fairly dramatically relative to the previous Legislature. This has been a big part of it.
So Walt, I don't know if Walt is in here, but I want to thank him and the Parks group. And then with you coming aboard, and of course, the new auditor settled in. Gene has been a big part of that, too. So you made a lot of difference.
It has made a lot of difference. It was the right thing to do. We needed to do it. And it has been done well. So I appreciate it.
MR. CONTRERAS: Well, thank you for your support. I appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: When you say you are going to audit a park every other year?
MR. CONTRERAS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Will the audit be for a two-year period or just for the year previous to the audit?
MR. CONTRERAS: What we will probably do is set out a time where their records are probably where the records are consistent. There is no holidays or any kind of exceptions.
We will just go in and do an audit on that time frame. We will take the documentation from that. Let's say it is a two-week period at the end of September or something. That is the way we will do it. We don't cover the operations for the entire
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You do snapshots. As part of all this change in the parks, and with Walt and the new system, our internal financial controls have dramatically improved. So they are much more consistent across the board. And I mean, to the point of where if I remember four or five years ago, there were ten or twelve different types of counters for the cars, the way they count. I mean, just to give you an example. Everything was inconsistent. So that has really been tightened up dramatically, which I assume that would make your audits look much better and hopefully that is not a snapshot, it is a clean snapshot.
MR. CONTRERAS: And that is where we come in with we couldn't find any errors in the last four rounds that we did in '09 for the visitation reporting.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There was a big problem that we had where a lot of our credibility was lacking. Great, Carlos. Thank you.
Sorry, Chairman. But I appreciate what you have done coming aboard.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Thank you. Any other questions or comments?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: All right. I will then place this section of this item regarding approval of the FY10 Audit Plan on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Committee Item Number 3, Conservation License Plate Marketing Update.
MS. BONTEMPO: Good morning. I am Darcy Bontempo, Chairman and Commissioners. It is a pleasure to be with you today. I am the marketing director for Texas Parks and Wildlife. And I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you this morning, and share with you a little bit about our successes in 2009 marketing of conservation license plates and some of our preliminary plans for this year. So thanks for making time to have me on the agenda.
The first thing I want to mention, and I know we have some new Commissioners is that this program benefits a wide range of divisions and programs in our agency. And since we launched the first plate ten years ago, we have generated more than $3.8 million for various programs here in the agency.
There are four plates as you see here. There is the horned lizard plate, or the horny toad plate as we call it. It was introduced ten years ago, and that was our very first plate, introduced in 1999. And it benefits Wildlife Diversity. There aren't a lot of other funds that we have available, so this is a very important plate for the programs that fall under wildlife diversity. It has generated $2,360,049 for the program over those ten years, and it still ranks as the Number 3 plate in the State of Texas. So it is a very popular plate. And that is not just amongst TCU alum.
So the State Parks plate was introduced a few years later, in 2001. It benefits state parks. We chose the bluebonnet image, since it was very hard to pick one image to represent state parks. We thought that would be a popular image, and it has proven to be so. And that is ranks as the number 7 plate in the State of Texas. Very popular as well. And we have generated to-date $758,640 in gross revenue from that plate.
In 2002, we introduced the deer and the bass plates. The deer plate supports wildlife and the big game program, hunting. It has generated more than $409,000 for those efforts, programs. And the bass plate was introduced also that year, and it benefits various Inland Fisheries programs, and has grossed more than $274,000.
We also, I just might take a moment to mention, we also support the DU plate, both the existing duck plate and the new blue heron plate in our brochures and on our website. So we also support those plates, although the Parks and Wildlife plates are those four that you see here.
We feel this program actually represents, we think, a very unique revenue-generating product and there are a couple of reasons for that.
The first is, there is no cost to our department to produce that product. It is produced by TxDOT. It is sold by TxDOT and fulfilled by TxDOT and we receive $22 for each year, for every plate sold. So that is a very high return on investment potential, because of that fact. In addition, this is probably one of the only products we talk about in terms of lifetime value. The plate is good for seven years. After that, it has to be replaced, because of reflectivity guidelines that TxDOT maintains. So for seven years, most of our customers keep their plate. And part of that is even increased in recent years because TxDOT actually sends out your registration bill. If any of you have a specialty plate you know this. And included in that, is your renewal for the specialty plate. So it is a great disincentive to not renew your plate. You would have to actually go, bring your plate into the office and pick up a new plate.
So it is we have estimated that probably about 30 percent of our customers still have their plates after seven years. And so that means that we have a pretty high lifetime customer value. We estimate about $95. And that is based on assuming that in the first year, after the first year, 20 percent of the customers that have purchased that plate in year 1 would not renew it. And every year after, about 10 percent. And that is an estimate. TxDOT is not able to provide us with any details on that. So it is an estimate. But TxDOT is the one that has told us that they believe that these are fairly accurate in terms of just an estimate. And so that also adds to the value of this product.
In addition, as you can appreciate, the plate is a moving billboard. Every time you see a horned lizard plate or a bluebonnet plate or a Hunt Texas plate or a Fish Texas plate it helps kind of promote the wildlife and mission of the Department.
So to talk a little bit about our marketing last year, and before I get into kind of what dollars we spent and how those broke out, I just want to mention for a little bit of background is, we actually did not market the plates in FY '05 excuse me, through most of FY '08. And that was driven by the fact that the Legislature did not renew our appropriation authority for the plate.
So during that time, we went pretty dark. We did keep our brochures out. We had some support from Toyota which allowed us to keep at least our brochures out. But we basically did not market the plate. And during that time, we did see a reversal in our sales growth which we were very concerned about. And you know, we had about a 14 percent drop during that period.
And so we were very excited when we were able to start marketing the plate again, when the appropriation authority was renewed or reinstated, I should say, in the 80th Legislature.
So at that point, we began marketing the plate. And while we no longer had a full time FTE as we originally had when we launched the program, we are lucky to have a very dedicated marketing coordinator, Carly Drees who is on my staff. And she would be here presenting to you, but she is in Dallas with other states working on fishing license sales with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. So we are very lucky that even though we have no dedicated person, we have had quite a bit of talented support to kind of keep these sales going.
So just looking at what we did this past year, we invested $50,440. And that was made up of 10 percent of the sales the year prior from the horned lizard and the bluebonnet plate. And you can see the figures there, the dollars there. And a slightly larger percent since it is smaller sales, 15 percent from the deer and bass.
And so combined marketing for those four plates was a little over $50,000. And we were finally able to begin marketing the plate in April. It took a while to get everything organized, meet with all the beneficiary divisions and kind of get a plan underway. But we began marketing in April. And that investment did result in a very impressive ROI.
In year one, we had a 63 percent ROI. And I have here a lifetime ROI with a question mark, because as I spoke with you about a minute ago, it is really hard for us. We do not know exactly what the ROI is, but whatever dollars we spent to acquire that new customer, that same customer, we don't have to spend money to renew them.
TxDOT is basically sending out the renewals, and those dollars keep coming in for multiple years. So it is an ROI beyond what we can actually project or estimate accurately.
The program in terms of actual dollars in FY'09 grossed $536,060. And that was 18.9 percent, excuse me, overall increase and all the plates were up at least 15 percent. Dollars equated to $82,116. And it resulted in 3,732 new plates on the road in Texas.
And just to give you a little idea about how we got those results, we tried we did quite a few new things in '09. And for one thing, we did a lot more online advertising. About half of our budget was spent online advertising. Part of that is the fact that TxDOT recently, in the last couple of years made it possible for customers to buy their plate online, to make those online purchases. We wanted to take advantage of that.
And also, I mean, as we all know, the internet usage just continues to grow dramatically across all demographic groups. So we wanted to take advantage of that. So we have here, you see the banners. What we call banner ads, and expand and open up. They show what drives you. And that appeared. It was in Texas, geo-targeted to Texas residents. And our media-buying agency basically created an online channel that reach people who were drivers and who enjoyed outdoor recreation. We had more than 2 million impressions, 18,231 clicks. And we had a click-through rate of .81 percent which is above the industry average of .20 percent. So we exceeded industry averages there.
We also really did well in Google Ad Words. And you just see there below, there is a little frame from the Google Ads. We always appear to the very top three mentions there. You see us on the top. And basically, with the Google Ad Words, we also received a high number of impressions. People seeing our Google Ad. 187,000 impressions, 4,667 clicks, a click-through rate of 2.74 percent. And again, that was above an industry average of .50. So significantly above industry average. So just, we are having some really successful results online. And we are very excited about that.
I just thought I would show you a frame from our website that we have redesigned in 2008. We want to make it more sales oriented and nice and clean, appealing looking. And if any of you have not had a chance to visit the website, you will find that it also offers a lot of detailed information on where the dollars are going. So if you go into the one lizard plate, you will be able to look at projects that were funded with those dollars. We do believe that a lot of our customers think that is important. Sort of another piece of the marketing puzzle for us. So we did a lot of work on that.
In addition, we did a lot of email marketing. And that is very cost effective for us, because we use our TPWD email subscription service. And we have at this time, 97,000 subscribers, and growing. And so we are able to market to those and to these people at no cost. We did six different versions. We did a horned lizard and bluebonnet. We did the deer and bass.
We did them individually, depending on the seasonality. We targeted those messages. Sent out more than 62,000 emails. And we had over 1,000 clicks. So that was also very successful for us. That is also above, I might mention, industry average is about 1.32 percent clicks on email blasts. And we achieved about 1.68 percent which, again, is above industry average. And we are going to continue to use that email marketing.
In addition, we did some direct mail tests. We sent out 12,000 letters to the Texas Nature Conservancy members. That was to promote our horned lizard plate for the Wildlife Diversity Program. We sent 10,000 letters to hunting license holders. The same amount to fishing license holders. And the same amount to State Park Pass holders. So these were different groups we targeted with each of the various plates, along with the brochures, to try to get them to purchase a plate supporting those programs.
We also did printouts. We did fewer printouts. And obviously our online dollars increased. So something had to decrease. And we decreased some of our spending on print. We still ran in the Highways Wildflower issue, which is running the Bluebonnet plate, which is a very good issue for that, to reach that audience with the bluebonnet plate. The Parks and Wildlife magazine, obviously our own magazine, Texas Monthly, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center insert and some other internal newsletters which are of no costs.
And we continue to distribute our brochures, print more brochures to distribute to state parks, law enforcement offices, as well as Toyota dealerships. And we worked pretty aggressively with the NGOs and other entities so we could try to leverage our marketing.
Part of the 2009 plan was also the redesign of the deer plate. We are pretty excited about this. We have been talking about it for a long time. And both wildlife and marketing shared the belief that we probably just didn't have quite the best image for a deer plate. You see. Everyone agrees.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I looked at that image and I thought, I can't put that on my car.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: A Disney character.
MS. BONTEMPO: You are going to like my next slide that I am going to show you in a second, I think. But yes. There was, there has been a lot of talk about that plate.
So Wildlife has continued to say to us, Hey, guys, we really would like to see something different. And we completely supported that. And for a very minimal redesign fee, now things are done digitally, we were able to redesign that. Worked closely with Wildlife on that. And as you can see, that image there is a pretty macho looking deer. More so, that photo was actually, it is kind of nice to know that that photo, that image is based on a photo of an actual trophy deer.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Do you know what it scored?
MS. BONTEMPO: Somebody probably does, but not me. But we could find that out for you. Anyway, we did launch this on May 15th. And whenever you do a redesign or a relaunch, you always have the opportunity as I am sure most of you know, to gain a little PR spin.
So we had a lot of fun working with our news and info folks, Tom Harvey in particular always works well with us, and closely with us on this. And we have a lot of fun with this headline; New Artwork Takes Deer License Plate from Pink to Macho. So it gave us an opportunity to try to get that out, try to get some free coverage.
And of course, use him on our website for all the plates. So you know, it seems to be doing very well. And hopefully Commissioner Bivins, you will purchase a plate now.
So looking ahead for this year, which we are already into, we are going to continue to market the plates. And we have recently completed meeting with the beneficiary divisions as we call them, which is Wildlife, State Parks and Inland Fisheries. And we have received their support to continue marketing the plate. It is a little bit less money than we had this last year. I mean we are in tight budget times, but we are very excited to be able to continue this program, this marketing for this program. And we are looking at increasing sales by 5 percent and hopefully, launching a little earlier this year, in January, as opposed to April, which was our launch last year. So just again briefly, we are in the midst right now of making our plans, so this is preliminary. But we expect to be doing more of the same, you know. More online marketing. More email marketing. Some print. And we are going to be doing some research and testing also. While we can't get the kind of data we wish we could get from TxDOT in terms of the people that purchase our plates, we are able to get zip code information, so we are going to look at where have our plates been doing well, what zip codes in Texas, and start doing direct mail that targets those zip codes, in other words, hunting license holders in those zip codes, so that we can be hopefully even more effective. And as well as looking at the county tax offices in those areas. Because again, that is based on a belief that if people in that zip code like our plate, probably other people in that zip code would like that plate. Sort of the general zip code marketing approach to things.
And we also are going to take advantage of doing some email surveying on our website in different areas of our website, we are going to be finding out if they are interested in the plate, why, if they are not, why. And some of our messaging. So we will continue to test and as always, refine and tweak our marketing efforts.
And that concludes my presentation. As always, I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Very good program. That is wonderful.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Commissioner Duggins, yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You said, one of your slides
MS. BONTEMPO: Do you want me to go back? Yes. The email.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Who are the 97,000 subscribers?
MS. BONTEMPO: Well, those are people that sign up on our website to receive our email blasts. They can sign up for one or all of the various items. They include hunters, anglers, people signing up for hunting information, fishing information, state park information, conservation information and so forth.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, you said that one of the things you want to do next year is to increase direct mail to, for example, hunting license holders.
MS. BONTEMPO: Well, we want to test it. I am not sure we are going to increase it. We will probably spend less next year. We want to test it a little bit more.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What is the cost of sending one direct mail to a license holder?
MS. BONTEMPO: Well again, depending on how many we send out, it is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of like 33 cents or so, if it is bulk, if it is sent out with a number of other
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And what would the costs be if we did it email to that same person?
MS. BONTEMPO: Yes. That is what I am saying. It would be almost nothing.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I still say, I know I said this in previous meetings, we need to work on whatever we need to do to get email addresses of our license holders, so that we can make it easier for them to do business with us, and us to communicate with them.
MS. BONTEMPO: Yes. And I could not agree more. We have that is exactly what we have begun to do. In fact, in all of our Big Time Texas Hunts mailings, we now request and try to ask them to get their email address, because we explain to them it will save money.
And we have worked with the licensing folks so that on the licensing purchase, actually now, it is a default that your email address stays there, and you have to uncheck it if you don't want it. So we are really working hard. We couldn't agree more with you that this is the most cost effective thing that we can do.
We also have a we are beginning to meet with the other divisions that send out emails, we manage it in the marketing group. But obviously, other people in the divisions send out fishing news reports, et cetera. And we are working with them on a plan right now to better coordinate and plan our email marketing efforts.
And we continue to ask all the divisions to try to do what they can do to support it. In fact, we recently spoke with State Parks and we are in the process of getting all of the camping, overnight camping reservations, people that have provided their email address, import it into our Go Delivery, which is our email subscription service, so that we can send them an invitation to sign up.
It still has to be permission-based, but we can send them that one invitation. And that may be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 people that we will be sending.
So I just wanted you to know that I fully support and agree with everything you are saying. And we are working as hard as we can to try to make that happen.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Great.
MS. BONTEMPO: So I appreciate that.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Commissioner Hughes.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yes. Being a relatively new Commissioner, this may have come up before, but is there any push to create new plates? I mean I guess the last plate was 2002. And what really looked like omission to me is the Coastal Fisheries. I mean there is a big contingent of fishermen or coastal enthusiasts throughout Texas. And there is not a plate that is supporting the Coastal Fisheries right now.
MS. BONTEMPO: Well, that is a very good question. And we always do have discussions. With Coastal Fisheries, one of the issues that came up there, is that there is the CCA plate. And that is a very popular plate for the Coastal Conservation Association.
And for a lot of the coastal anglers, that is their plate of choice. And so that, and those funds are often used to support efforts that you know, are consistent with the Parks and Wildlife mission.
So that has been frankly, the concern, is that there is a plate out there, with the redfish that supports coastal fishing. It has just been hard to determine whether we should go in and try to compete with that plate. There is a deposit required to launch a new plate, $15,000. And so there is also a question of are there funds available to invest in that, and are we going to get the return on that plate.
But that is something that we can certainly, in fact, we are meeting, I think maybe next week again with Coastal Fisheries just to talk about general marketing priorities and we can certainly ask them about that again.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: One other question, as far as your marketing, has there been any push to market directly to lifetime hunting and fishing license holders?
MS. BONTEMPO: You know, I don't know that there has been.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: We kind of have a captive market there. Anybody that has gone to the expense to buy that license, is a very good market.
MS. BONTEMPO: That is a very good that is an excellent idea. I don't think we have done that yet. And you know, especially now that we have had this increase in the number of lifetime. It used to be that was a fairly small number. And we market to them with our big time hunts efforts.
But that is something we will look into. That is a really good idea. And I appreciate that.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Any other questions or comments? Thank you very much for your presentation.
MS. BONTEMPO: Thank you. I appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: We will now move to Committee Item Number 4 that will be heard in Executive Session. Personnel Matters, Performance Evaluation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It says no action is required.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purposes of the following; consultation with attorney, 551.071, deliberation regarding real estate, 551.072, deliberation regarding a prospective gift, 551.073 and deliberation regarding personnel, 551.074.
And we will now recess into Executive Session if that is okay with you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That is wonderful.
(Whereupon, the Commission recessed in Executive Session at 12:00 noon.)
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Let's go ahead and reconvene the Finance Committee. There is no further action needed to be taken on Item Number 4, so the work of the Finance Committee is concluded.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 4, 2009
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.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731