Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Finance Committee

Jan. 22, 2003

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
  

     BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 22nd day of

January,  2003, there came on to be heard  matters  under

the  regulatory  authority  of  the  Parks  and  Wildlife

Commission  of  Texas, in the Commission Executive  Board

Room   of  the  Texas  Parks  and  Wildlife  Headquarters

Complex, beginning at 10:40 a.m. to wit:


APPEARANCES:
THE PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

FINANCE COMMITTEE:

          Katharine Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Commission
          Chair
          Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
          Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas, Committee
          Chair
          John Avila, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas
          Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
          Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
          Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
          Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas
          Mark W. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Robert  L.  Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel
of the Parks and Wildlife Department
          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  We will reconvene this

meeting.  We will reconvene with the Finance Committee.

          Commissioner Angelo?

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Thank you, Madame

Chairman.

          The first item of business would be to approve

the minutes from the previous meeting.  Are there any

corrections or additions?  If not, a motion will be

approved.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  So moved.

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Second.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  All in favor say, Aye.

          (A chorus of ayes.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Opposed?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  The minutes are approved.

          Mr. Cook, if you could give us the chairman's

charges.

          MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.

          Commissioner, just a few notes in this

particular area, in our Finance Committee, on chairman's

charges.  I thought it would be appropriate to touch on

kind of where we are in our legislative process a little

bit.  And Ms. Whittenton is going to expand on that some.

          You will recall, we submitted our legislative

appropriations request back in August.  It seems like a

long time ago now.  But -- and things have certainly --

the picture of where we're headed in this session is

getting clearer and clearer every day.  So we've got a

lot of work to do.

          Just to give you an idea -- since the prefiling

of legislation started in November, there have been

slightly over 700 different pieces of legislation filed

so far.  We are -- the Department and our legislative

liaisons -- within each division and legislative reps,

Joey Park and Harold Stone, are tracking 84 of those

bills right now.  They, in some form or fashion, have

some mention of, or some impact on Texas Parks and

Wildlife Department and/or our resources.

          To give you an idea, there's three or four of

them that have some obvious impacts that I want to be

sure you know about.  One bill has been filed relating to

the transfer of the Odessa meteor crater to Texas Parks

and Wildlife Department.  Obviously, that potentially

could have a fiscal impact that we would all be

interested in.

          Also, a bill relating to the protection of

public freshwater areas that, in a nutshell, closes state-

owned riverbeds to vehicular traffic.  And, as you know,

we have worked with different folks, and different

agencies, and Dr. McKinney chaired a group to help

develop the recommendations and guidelines there.  And we

have worked to do there.

          We have a bill proposed, submitted, that

exempts folks over 70 years of age and older from the

requirement of having a hunting or fishing license.

Again, that would have a fiscal impact.

          And we are developing, or already have

developed, impact statements on each of those bills.

          Finally, just another example, we have a bill

that would exempt landowners from the requirement of

obtaining a hunting license to hunt feral hogs on the

landowners' property.  So, there is a bill that,

sometimes, you might think -- and it does make some

sense.  And, obviously, it has some proponents.

          However, when a person is out with a rifle over

their shoulder, and walking through the woods, it becomes

difficult for one of our enforcement officers to

determine if they're deer hunting, or hog hunting, or

quail hunting, or whatever it is they're doing.  And

currently, if you're out in the woods with a rifle, and

if you're out there hunting, then you have to have a

hunting license.

          As of last week, the Senate committees were

named.  And I think we provided that information to you.

If you haven't gotten it, we'll be glad to provide you

that.  We anticipate that the House committees will

probably be named, at least, prior to the first of this

next month, probably the end of this month or the first

of next month, somewhere thereabouts.

          We are -- as Suzy will, again, give you a

little more detail on -- we are preparing to assist our

legislators in every way possible to get through what we

all believe is going to be a difficult session.  And

we're going to make this thing work.  We've got a good

outfit.  And we can find ways to help them.  And we're

going to.

          So, with that, if you have any questions, I'll

be glad to take a shot at them now.  Or we can address

that when Suzy completes hers.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Are there any questions?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  There being none, Suzy,

we'll move on to your item number two, which is the

financial review and update.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Okay.  Thank you, Mr.

Chairman, Commissioners.  For the record, I'm Suzy

Whittenton, Chief Financial Officer.

          Last week, we sent out some financial reports

to you, in a notebook to give you a little more

comprehensive detailed information.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Let me interrupt for just

a second and tell you how much I appreciate that.  I

think that was a super collection of information.  And I

congratulate you and your staff on putting that together.

And I hope the Commissioners take full advantage of it.

          I went through that.  I won't say that I

studied it to the extent I should have.  But I think

having that information is extremely valuable.  And I

would that there might be sometime that the commission

could be, in a more detailed manner, briefed on this type

of information, at least once a year.  I think it would

be very beneficial to everybody to be able to go through

it and ask questions.  But it's great information.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Thank you.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  I didn't mean to

interrupt you.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Not at all.

          MR. COOK:  Anytime.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  We also plan to add to that

some other information, like we'll try to include

information on performance measures, and FTEs, and budget-

wise strategy.  And, as we go along, add to it -- and

it's kind of a work in progress at this point.

          Anyway, today's presentation will cover

summarized revenue and expenditure information, as well

as an update on where we're going with this improvement

plan, and, Mr. Cook mentioned, the legislative

appropriations request status.

          Let's start with park revenue.  As of the end

of November, park revenue was down 12 percent, or about

$659,000.  Part of that is due to the fact that this year

Thanksgiving weekend fell into the December reporting

period, because of the weekend that it was in, the way

they cut off the weeks to report revenue.  Other reasons

are the stormy weather.  And there's some parks that just

have not done as well, in certain parts of the state, as

they had in previous years.

          However, from what we're seeing, it looks like

December was a good month.  I just don't have good

December numbers just yet.  So we think that we'll,

possibly, be back up to closer to the levels we were at

last year by the end of January.  We'll just keep

watching.  It's early in the season for park revenues, as

we collect most of that in the last two quarters of the

fiscal year.

          In boat revenue, we're also down, as of the end

of December.  It looks like it's due to registrations

being off.  Titling revenue is actually up over last

year.  And sales tax started to rebound in December.  So

it's a little odd to see registrations this far off.  We

had a similar situation -- remember last year, we started

off the year with boat registrations looking real

strange, or revenue looking a little different.

          But we collect the bulk of our boat

registrations between March and June.  Actually, February

is a pretty big month as well.  So we'll be watching it

real closely.  We're not worried about it right now.

We're only off less than half a million dollars.  And I

think we'll probably catch up.

          In license sales, this is the number of

licenses, stamps, and permits that we've sold since the

license year began in mid-August.  And it's down just

slightly over last year, but that doesn't necessarily

translate into a revenue correlation.  It just means that

the total number that we sold is down.

          But super combo sales are up again.  They've

been up every since we introduced that license type.  So

what tends to happen is people who used to buy a license

and two stamps will move to buying a super combo.  So you

a reduction in the total number of the sale.  But, again,

it doesn't necessarily mean that revenue is off.  In

fact, revenue is not down.

          Hunting license sales -- we've sold over a

million hunting licenses so far this year.  It's up just

a little over 1 percent, as compared to this time a year

ago.  It's interesting to note that nonresident hunting

licenses are at 6.5 percent roughly.  And that ends up

having a significant fiscal impact because those licenses

are more expensive.

          And in fishing licenses, we've sold just over a

million fishing licenses so far this year, which is down

just slightly, about 2 percent, over last year.  Again,

nonresident sales are up slightly while sales to

residents are down 5 percent.  Also, saltwater stamp

sales are down 4.4. percent.

          We'll probably still sell another 300,000

fishing licenses the remainder of this year.  We've sold

almost all of the hunting licenses we'll sell.  But

there's still significant numbers of fishing licenses

that we think we'll sell.

          And in looking at total revenue, as I

mentioned, revenue is up just a little bit, less than 1

percent, over last year, as of the end of December, which

was about $183,000 higher.  Early January reports show

that revenues are continuing to outpace last year's.  And

as of last week, we were up $380,000 approximately.  So

license revenue seems to be doing fine.  And we've

collected 64 percent of what we think we'll collect all

year.

          What we usually focus on in these meetings are

the top three revenue types.  But there are so many other

revenue sources.  And they're in your notebooks, if you

want to study them.  We track all of our revenue against

the annual estimates, the cash we expect to receive in a

fiscal year.  The Comptroller's office does their revenue

estimate as well.  And that's what we base our budgets

on.

          And so, I just picked out five of the primary

funds to show you what it looks like.  In Fund 9, the

Game Fish and Water Safety account, we've already

collected almost half of what we'll collect all year.

And that's, of course, because license sales is the

primary revenue source in there.  And we collect most of

those in the fall.

          State Park funds -- we collected 30 percent.

We're about a third of the way through the year.  And,

again, the two biggest quarters for the state park

revenue are the last two, the third and fourth quarters.

So that looks like, cash-wise, we're doing all right.

          The artificial refund, the last one there,

looks a little odd.  The estimate was based on prior year

donations that are received for artificial reaps and

interest income.  And we've already collected 170 percent

of what we thought we'd collect all year.

          So, there are some unusual things that happen

throughout the year.  And I included information on all

of our funds in your notebook.

          And on the expenditure side, this is just a

summary by category, agencywide.  We're a third of the

way through the fiscal year.  We've spent 31.5 percent of

our budget.  And you can see that some of the categories

track pretty constantly throughout the year.

          Like, the personal services is salaries and

wages.  And fringe benefits, we're spending at about the

pace we expected.  You can see we've already spent 41

percent of our capital equipment budget.  And I've only

encumbered 14 percent of our grant budget.

          And that's just the way we spend funds

throughout the year.  Each division is managing their own

budget and monitoring that they're not going to go over

budget when make their expenditures.

          We're expecting to get some correspondence from

the Governor's office sometime this week, possibly today,

telling us -- directing us to save some funds for this

year, to make up for the $2 billion shortfall that

they've got.  We don't know yet what format that's going

to be in, whether it's going to be just a hiring freeze,

or a freeze on certain types of expenditures, or whether

it's going to be a targeted amount that they want us to

save.  And so we'll have to look at adjusting what's left

of the year unspent.

          In the business improvement plan, I sent you a

copy in your notebook of the detail of those items.

There were 94 items in the plan.  That's been in effect

since March.  We've now completed 46 of those items --

which is approximately 50 percent of all the items are

100 percent completed.

          A lot of them are pretty far along.  There are

another 14 items scheduled to be finished by the end of

next month.  That will put us at about two-thirds of the

way finished with all of the 94 items.

          The plan actually goes out until November '04,

before we'll have everything finished.  Because there are

some items in there that require programming, and some

systems rewrites of some of our revenue systems, and some

feasibility studies that we're going to be doing that

take a little longer.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Suzy, my comment that I

saw Mr. Bomer [phonetic] during the past week and had a

chance to visit with him.  And I don't think he'd mind me

saying that his comment was that -- I won't get this

exactly right, but the essence of it was that Parks and

Wildlife response to his recommendations was the best of

any of the similar type of audit process that he had gone

through with any other agency.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  That's great.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  He was very complimentary

for what you all have done.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Thank you.

          And, Bob mentioned the legislative

appropriations request.  We sent that out last September.

And have, since then, spent a lot of time with the staff

of Legislative Budget Board and the Governor's office,

answering a lot of questions.  They've been combing

through our request and our prior spending.

          And last week, the Governor's office

recommended a zero base budget.  They're expecting each

agency to start with zero funding and then justify every

dollar that would be budgeted.

          They've also recommended a slightly more

detailed funding pattern that would better identify the

primary functions that are funded within each strategy.

And then, they are associating indirect cost to each

strategy.  So it will be, probably, a little easier to

read in the format that they've proposed.

          They have not addressed any of the rider

requests in their budget.

          In prior sessions, what normally happens is the

Legislative Budget Board's request is taken as a base and

it goes from there.  This go round, we're not sure if

they're going to use a zero base strategy or use the LBB

recommendation.  That came out a couple of weeks ago.

And it is a current services level budget, which, of

course, there doesn't seem to be revenue to support.  But

it's important to look at what's in the recommendation I

think.

          The recommendation excluded any Proposition 8

funding.  And that wasn't just for Parks and Wildlife,

but all the agencies that were covered by those

Proposition 8 funds.  They just left them out.  We don't

really know why.  If they were thinking, postponing that

as something that could be pushed out a couple of years.

But none of the agencies had any Proposition 8 funding.

          It also eliminated our entrepreneurial rider,

which would be a concern to us.  We feel like that's real

important.  So that if we earned revenue over and above

the revenue estimate, then we'd be able to spend it if

needed.

          It also -- we had asked that land acquisitions,

with federal funds or grant funds, be exempted from the

restrictions that their capital budget rider places on

those kinds of purchases.  And instead, they came back

with a rider that would increase the restrictions on land

acquisitions.  And, in fact, they cut out the $1.5

million of federal funds, land and water funds, that we

had asked for, for land acquisitions.  And they had

recommended a decrease there.

          They also added the amounts for the floating

cabins that we had asked for.  The floating cabin money

that -- if you will recall, we had earned revenue from

floating cabin permits and then it was required to be

deposited into the general revenue fund.  And we weren't

able to access it.  And so it was lapsed at the end of

last year.  And we asked that that be given back to the

agency.  And LBB did recommend that we get that back.

It's not a significant dollar amount.  It's, I think, a

couple hundred thousand.

          And also, a week or two ago, the Comptroller's

revenue estimate was released.  It is within 1 percent of

the revenue estimate that we had submitted back in

September.  And so we were pleased that they agreed that

our numbers were in line.

          So at this point, we're waiting on legislative

leadership to provide some guidance on what the budget

approach will be.  And we'll be working real closely with

their offices, and, of course, with the Senate Finance

and House Appropriations committee to proceed from here.

          And that completes my presentation.  I'm happy

to take any questions.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Mr. Chairman.

          Suzy, it's my understanding that the

entrepreneurial rider -- this is something we've had to

deal with just about every legislative session since it's

been in existence.  So the fact that it's been eliminated

at this point is not an unusual situation.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  That's correct.  Thank you.

          I guess we had that rider for some time in the

'90s and then lost it a couple of sessions ago.  And last

session, that was one of our exceptional items requests,

was to get that rider back.  And we did get it back.  We

haven't had to use it yet because our revenue has not

exceeded estimates yet.  But we sure like to have it in

place.

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Mr. Chairman.

          Would you expand a bit on your comments -- I

may have missed something -- regarding property funding

and land acquisition?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Okay.  On the Proposition 8

was the bond, you know, that passed, it was 100 --

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  101.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  -- $101 million for eight

agencies or so.

          MR. BORUFF:  It was 850 --

          MS. WHITTENTON:  I'm sorry.

          MR. BORUFF:  -- for a total optional --

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Thank you.  We had been

scheduled to get about $30 million, $34 million, over the

next biennium, according to the schedule that was

originally prepared.  They didn't recommend that we get

that, those bond funds, next biennium, nor did they

recommend them for any of the other agencies.

          However, we have collected the first $36

million that was included in this biennium.  They've

given us all of -- the Texas Public Finance Authority

went ahead and funded all of those bonds.  So we have

them in our bank account right now.  So that will

actually get us through if we have to go without the next

biennium.  I think we'd be all right there.

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  I understand.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Okay.  Good.

          MR. BORUFF:  The legislature issued $850

million -- oh, I'm Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive

Director in Operations.  The legislature issued $850

million in bonds for ten or eleven agencies, of which we

would receive 101 million.  That 101 million was to be

issued roughly in equal installments, if you will, over

the next three bienniums, of 35 million, more or less.

          We took an aggressive stance and had already

had the first 34 million, or 35 million, issued.  It is

in the bank.  We feel like we're pretty safe there.

          The current legislature, though, has to

recertify the next installment, if you will, of 35

million or so.  And that is the one that we're worried

about more, it being at risk.  If they don't recertify,

we may not be able to get that 35 million the next

biennium.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Suppose the legislature's

concern there, or reason for that, might be the interest

payments on it.  Would that be right?

          MR. BORUFF:  Yes, sir. the debt services --

          MR. COOK:  That's a big debt service.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Because the capital part

of it is already covered.  The debt service would be the

problem.

          MR. BORUFF:  The debt service is about $80

million on that total issue.  So it's a big piece of it.

          MR. COOK:  Let me point out, in particular, you

know, like the Battleship was to be in this next --

there's several of those big projects that are

specifically identified in the original bill, that, you

know, this is really going to impact those.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  So we might be looking at

a two-year delay?

          MR. COOK:  Yes, sir.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  That's a possibility.

          COMMISSIONER RAMOS:  Are other agencies that

are supposed to get profit monies in a similar situation?

Or is it only us?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  It's all of us.

          MR. BORUFF:  It's all agencies.  In fact, we're

one of three that I'm aware of that were ahead of the

curve, and went ahead and had the bonds issued early, in

anticipation of this.  The others would be at risk even

for this first, since it's not been issued yet.  And I

don't know.  I mean, obviously, that's not my call.

But -- so, yes, all agencies were treated equally.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  And as to your question on

land acquisitions, we had asked that if we got any

additional funds, federal funds, or grant funds, or gifts

like we had with the Callison [phonetic] purchase, could

that be exempted from any restrictions that are in the

normal, in the regular appropriations bill?  And,

instead, they came back with a recommendation to increase

the restrictions.

          In fact, the rider that they recommended says

that before we could purchase any land over and above

what's included in the base bill, we would have to go

through a prior approval process, with the Legislative

Budget Board and the Governor's office, before we could

make any of those additional purchases.  That's what

their recommended rider says.

          And, you know, we don't know whether that will

be proposed in a bill or not.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Even though that would

actually be of no cost to the state's budget?  Is that

correct or not?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  That's correct.  There would

be no cost, zero cost, yes.  I think we could -- we would

have an opportunity to be heard on that.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  They probably don't want

us taking on any new land purchases that are going to add

to our operating costs.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  I suspect that was the

thinking.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Right.  Any other

questions from the commissioners?

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  How long is that directive

in effect for?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Well, if it were to pass, it

would be part of the next two-year budget.  So it would

be for a two-year period.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Well, what happens if we

sell a piece of property and get some money in order to

acquire land?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  We currently have a rider that

says that if we sell land, that the proceeds from the

land sale can be reappropriated for a similar purchase.

The LBB has recommended that that rider be deleted.  So I

think the message we're getting there is, we're concerned

about land acquisitions.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  That could have a bearing

on your concern.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  My concern is --

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  We'll discuss that, I'm

sure, later.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Okay.

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  I think we need to let the

record show that it also has a significant bearing on the

report concerning the purchase of those five major parks

that we talked about, within the ten-year period.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  You mean the Land

Conservation Act?

          COMMISSIONER HENRY:  Yes, the Land Conservation

Act.  That just brings it to a halt.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Those are probably a

little --

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  I think, for the next

biennium, somewhere in the future.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  But the Land and

Water Conservation didn't address funding.  And it is

conceivable there have been acquisitions by the

Department before, where the funds came not from the

state and the operations were endowed separately from the

state.  And that's been one of the possibilities in that

mix, from the beginning, that I really think was,

probably, always the case -- is that we're going to have

to get the money separately to do that.

          So, I'm not -- I don't think you should stop

this work and all.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  With the restrictions

prohibitive from the next biennium then?  This is what

you're saying?

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  No, I don't think --

          MS. WHITTENTON:  I don't think it would

prohibit it.  We just wouldn't be --

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  -- there would be

state money for it.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  We have to get prior approval

to make any purchases.  And then if we sold any land, we

wouldn't necessarily get to use that money to make

additional land purchase.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  The prior approval

process would not absolutely exclude the possibility that

it might happen.  You might be able to get that approval.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  It just makes it slow it down

a little, yes.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  And depending on what you

get there.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  You have to look at

the funding for operations and for acquisition is the

short answer.  I've always thought that was the case.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any other questions,

comment?

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Along those lines, I do

have one comment -- that we all understand that these are

very tough budget times for everybody; and that when the

Land and Water Conservation Plan was formulated, we

understood that there would be these sort of things.

This is a ten to fifteen-year plan.  And we are going to

take realities as they come.

          These tough budget times have also brought some

focus on the priorities of our holdings.  And we have

gotten some indications from the Comptroller's office and

others that we need to be sure that our assets that we

have right now are fully utilized.  And that's sort of

the other side of the coin here.  And I just wanted to

make mention of that.

          MR. COOK:  I'd also like to make sure that, on

this approval business, we have a decision -- I don't

recall exactly -- we've made two or three requests under

the present requirement to get clearance.  And we've done

so, not necessarily because it was required, because we

wanted those -- we've been working with those folks

closely, and we wanted them to know what we've been

doing.  We wanted them to understand.

          And the requirement that was put on us in this

last couple of sessions, you know, we have -- for

instance, and I'll use a classic example, was at

Government Canyon -- you know, where you've got an

adjoining piece of property.

          You've got half of the funding being provided

by the City of San Antonio, the rest of the funding being

provided, basically, through a grant program -- not one

single dollar of the acquisition -- and in effect, what

that one did -- and we've got another we're looking at

right now down there that actually kind of squares up our

property, where we have less fence, less property line to

maintain.  If I'm -- as a landowner, everybody looks for

those kinds of things.

          But what the group is saying is, regardless of

the funding source, they want to be involved.  And that's

the basic pattern of questioning.  Is this going to cost

you additional operating dollars?  Is it going to help

you?  Are you going to have to add utilities?  Are you

going to have to add staff -- those kind of things.  And

we've been able to satisfy them every time.

          But it does take some time and effort.  But

still, in these kind of budget times, it's probably a

good, responsible approach.  And we can live with it.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  You made a good point

there.  You don't want to squelch the opportunities, the

sort of creative solutions you have at Government Canyon,

where not just the City of San Antonio, but SOG

[phonetic] and EAA --

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Private philanthropists.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  It's unbelievable.

          MR. COOK:  And as you know, we have -- our

acquisitions in recent years, basically have been limited

to access, you know, issues and/or end holdings, or maybe

corners that square us up.  Those are the kind of things

we have been looking for.

          Now, our land and water plan will certainly be

impacted -- could potentially be impacted by this.  But

we're going to continue to work on it.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any more questions?

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Yes.  Let's say we did

sell property, wherever it may be, and we just got some

money.  And the intent of that is to purchase land

elsewhere, in accordance with our plan, our Land and

Water Conservation plan, are we in danger of being told

to use that money differently?

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  I'd like to address that.

Because I was intimately involved the Land and Water

Conservation Plan, as were several of the commissioners

here.

          And I see this argument developing, or

discussion developing, that I think is not an accurate

reflection.  Simply because we are looking at

divestiture, which might or might not raise funds, those

funds are not earmarked for acquisition.  And I think

that's important to understand.  It's just an option, not

an absolute, you know, requirement.

          Don't think that just because we are finding

ways to work with localities to divest ourselves of a

park that, perhaps, is no longer fit to criteria that

we've laid out for ourselves as to what a state park

should be -- that does not necessarily mean that if funds

are raised in that process, that they will immediately go

to another acquisition.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  Unless it's

appropriate, meets the criteria.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  It would be wrong to

assume that that's a fait accompli.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  I think it's good to get

that out.

          COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS:  Point is well taken.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any other questions,

comments?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Thank you, Suzy.  That

will complete that item and we'll move to item number

three, which, again, will be presented by Suzy Whittenton

and John Herron.  This is the wildlife grant budget

adjustment.  I believe it requires some explanation.

          MS. WHITTENTON:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

          This item's really a housekeeping item.  It's

an item to ensure that the wildlife budget for the

Conservation Action grants complies with Section

11.043(c) that governs the use of the conservation and

capital account, where license plate revenue is

deposited.

          Last August, when we approved the operating

budget, funds for this program were included in the

budget.  However, I mistakenly classified them as

operating funds.  They should have been grant funds.

          What the statute says is that license plate

proceeds may only be spent for acquisition, development,

maintenance, or operation of parks, fisheries, or

wildlife projects that have been individually approved by

the Commission.  So in order to just ensure that we were

in compliance, we felt we should bring this item into an

open meeting.

          The funds set aside for this grant program

are -- in the budget, there's $700,000 set aside.  The

funds come from a combination of state wildlife grant

funds, federal funds, and these revenues from license

plate proceeds.  Those license plate proceeds are the

ones that can only be used for certain projects -- so the

wildlife projects that have been individually approved by

the Commission.

          So this program is to benefit rare species and

species in need of conservation.  They're grants that

require a one-to-one match from the grantee.  And so

we're just recommending that we specifically approve this

as a separate budget item.  It won't change anything in

the budget.  It just clarifies that the Commission was

aware that these funds were set aside for this purpose.

          And there are -- if you have any questions

about the specific program, I'll have to call on wildlife

staff to help me.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Essentially, this is a

housekeeping item, to correct something that was not

exactly correct the first time?

          MS. WHITTENTON:  That's correct.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Anyone have any questions

on that?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  If there's no further

questions or discussion, without objection, we'll place

this item on the agenda for the Thursday commission

meeting for public comment and action.  Hearing none, it

will be done.

          Item number four -- thank you, Suzy -- this is

several grant situations, local park grants first, I

guess.  Tim Hogsett will present this.

          Tim?

          MR. HOGSETT:  Good morning, Mr. Chairman,

members of the Commission, I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of

the Recreation Grants Program and the State Parks

Division.  I'm coming before you today to acquaint you

with the recommendations we will be making tomorrow for

funding from three grant programs, two of which are from

the Texas Recreation Parks accounts sporting goods tax

and the other is a pass-through federal program.

          Our largest program is our outdoor recreation

grant program.  The $500,000 maximum grants are 50

percent grants to local governments for acquisition and

development of public parks and recreation facilities.

We bring these to you twice a year.

          As of our July 31, 2002, deadline, we had

received 43 applications requesting a bit over $18

million in matching funds.  We've scored and rank ordered

the applications using the scoring system which you've

previously adopted.  We've conducted site visits.  And

tomorrow, we will be recommending funding for the top 14

applications, for $16,550,817 in matching funds.

          And that's all I have on that.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any discussion or

questions on that particular item?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  If not, Tim, the next one

is Indoor Recreation Grants.

          MR. HOGSETT:  Indoor Recreation Grants, also

from the Texas Recreation Parks accounts sporting goods

tax, sales tax revenue, we receive applications once a

year for this program, the July 31 deadline.

          And we're bringing forward to you

recommendations for the projects that we received prior

to our July 31 deadline.  We saw a pretty dramatic

increase in the number of applications for this program

this time, 25.  It's typically been ten or twelve.  So I

think the news is getting out there.  The interest is

mounting for the program.

          We received 25 applications, requesting $15.8

million in matching funds.  And, again, we prioritized

those by the scoring system that you've adopted.  And

tomorrow, we'll be recommending funding for the top six

applications for $3,411,868 in matching funds.

          And I'll be glad to answer any questions.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any questions on this

item?

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Tim, when is the next go

around on this particular fund?

          MR. HOGSETT:  It will be -- we've sent

permanent deadlines now for the indoor program of July

31.  And we'll come back every January with those grants.

          The outdoor program, we take applications twice

a year, July 31 and January 31 deadlines, and bring those

applications to you in August and January.

          For our other programs in the Texas Recreation

and Parks account, we take applications for our small

communities program that we just started January 31 for

an August review, and the same for the regional park

grants.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Mr. Cook, do you have

something?

          MR. COOK:  Mr. Chairman, excuse me.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Go ahead.  Are you

finished?

          MR. HOGSETT:  I'm done.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Are you sure?

          MR. HOGSETT:  Yes.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Mr. Cook?

          MR. COOK:  Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, one

thing that I wanted to remind you of, and make you aware

of, not only in addition to the number of applicants that

we have seen increase in both of these programs, we've

added some requirements in these programs, at Commission

direction, to emphasize conservation messages and, you

know, deliver conservation on the ground in some of these

sites.

          Tim, any comments, any thoughts, on that?  Is

that -- these guys came in and briefed me.  And it sounds

to me like we really have got people's ears, that they

really are getting into those kinds of proposals.

Because they get extra points for that kind of thing --

Tim, thoughts, comments?

          MR. HOGSETT:  Yes, that's, I believe, to be

absolutely the case.  For example, in the outdoor

program, one of the things that we're seeing is that it

virtually is required that you be acquiring new park land

to be able to be competitive.  You'll notice in the

description, in both the indoor and the outdoor programs,

of the top three or four projects that all of them have

some fairly significant conservation element in them,

whether it be preservation of a wetland, or a nature

interpretation facility, or whatever.

          I agree with Mr. Cook.  I believe that it is.

And we don't hear, really, very many complaints about it.

I think that the local governments are pleased with the

direction that the program's taking.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  So if they are naming it

recreation center, and indoor/outdoor recreation centers,

these cities are clear when they come in with an

natatorium, they're not going to score high?

          MR. HOGSETT:  If that's all their asking for,

probably not, no.  In fact, we had -- the lowest scoring

project of the bunch was a little community up in the

Panhandle.  All they want to do is put a roof over an

existing swimming pool.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  That would be a stretch,

wouldn't it?

          MR. HOGSETT:  Yes.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any other questions?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  All right.  Does that --

you've got another one then?

          MR. HOGSETT:  Yes.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  The final one is the

Target Range Grants.

          MR. HOGSETT:  Target Range Grants are 75

percent federal pass-through grants authorized by the

Wildlife Restoration Act.  They are just what you would

expect them to be, grants for infrastructure related to

hunter education facilities, target ranges, that sort of

thing.

          We received two applications, requesting a

total of $90,000, from two different gun clubs.  And

we'll be recommending approval for both of those to you

tomorrow.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Any questions on that

item?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  If not, and there are no

further questions or discussion, without objection, we'll

place this item on the Thursday commission meeting agenda

for public comment and action.  Hearing none, that's what

will happen.  We don't need to make a motion.

          MR. HOGSETT:  Thank you.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  The next item on our

agenda is the Kerrville-Schreiner State Park transfer.

          Mr. Dabney?

          MR. DABNEY:  Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good

morning.  I'm Walt Dabney, State Park Director.  I'm here

to talk to you today of the possible transfer of

Kerrville-Schreiner State Park in Kerrville, Texas.

          We received this park, this 517-acre park, in

1934 from the city, soon after it was built by the CCC.

And we paid them $10 for it.  And it's a great park.

It's virtually surrounded by the City of Kerrville now,

right on the river.  It has a lot of nice facilities --

campsites, restaurants, shelters, and so forth.

          Under House Bill 2108, wherein previously

approved a transfer of five other sites, the City of

Kerrville has come to us with a request that we consider

transferring this park back to them for operation.  We

have $2 million per year authorized by the legislature,

out of the grants program, not out of park operating

dollars, to effect these kinds of transfers.

          The grant has to be predicated on a proposal

from the city, or county, subdivision of the state, to

take this ownership back.  Kerrville has put a list of

things together, and has requested a grant of $1.8

million to transfer the park back, including the

facilities and equipment that is there, to operate it.

They also want to contract with us -- which we've done

with Lower Colorado River Authority -- to use our central

reservations office to continue to make reservations for

their campground, which we would be prepared to do.

          The staff, which is always an issue in these

things, and has been -- and we have not, per your

directions -- and certainly that is our feeling, too --

no employees have lost their jobs because of this.  Some

of the employees at Kerrville would choose to become city

employees and others that are there would be moved to

other state park sites.

          The transfer terms, as has been the case in the

other five, guarantees that the park has to continue to

be used as it is now, as a park.  They must continue to

take care of historical, cultural, and natural resources

at the site.  It would no longer be called a state park.

          And there is a transfer clause back, that if

they decided subdivide it and sell if off, or whatever,

it would come back to us instead.  You can't do that with

any of these sites.  That's not the spirit of the law.

          The transfer grant would be in '03, '04 if you

approve this.  And it would let us provide some

transition money so that they can get staffed up and

start operating the site.  It also would let us fix the

water and sewer systems, put a new restroom in.  And the

idea behind all these things is we want to give them a

first-class park.  They've got a good recreation and

parks department.  We give them a first-class park to

operate.  And the people of Texas benefit all the way

around on that.

          Our recommendation will be, tomorrow, will be

that you give us the authorization to negotiate a final

agreement up to that $1.8 million figure.  And if we

reach that agreement, we transfer the site.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Walt, will you briefly

give your opinion as to how this does benefit Parks and

Wildlife and the state?

          MR. DABNEY:  I think, first of all, there is

certainly no net loss to the people of Texas, of park

land, which is consistent with the philosophy behind this

law.  And the City of Kerrville, compared to 1934, is a

real city now, and not a small town.  They have a very

good parks department.  This park is quickly becoming a

city park, as it is surrounded by development in the City

of Kerrville.

          We certainly -- it's almost a wash as far as

revenue versus operating cost, except for the capital

piece of that, which over time, certainly, is an issue.

We need those people.  We haven't filled positions there

for a while, knowing that the city was serious about

this.  The ones that are remaining, we need in other

parks right now.  And we would use them.

          So I look at this as a very positive overall

situation financially.  And, otherwise, I think all of

you know, we're down 90 positions anyway and have

difficulty in dealing with some of these things.

          So this is consistent.  I don't really have any

others on the pond right now.  I think if you approve

this one, this will be six that were pretty logical

transfers.

          And I don't see many more coming forward that

are likely to transfer -- with the exception, as

Commissioner Ramos knows, that we might be able to

transfer the swimming pool at Lake Casa Blanca to the

City of Laredo, if we were to fix it up and give it to

them so that they could operate it as a city pool.  I'd

love to do that, and a couple of more, if we had the

chance.  But I don't really see those opportunities

coming.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Commissioner Avila?

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Walt, are we saying that

we're going to transfer this to the City of Kerrville and

give them 1.8 million?

          MR. DABNEY:  Yes, sir.  We don't give them --

it's a reimbursable thing.  They have to go in and do

these renovations, and so forth.  And then they bill us

back.  They give us the receipts.  There are some that

it's transitional money, which is operational.  But most

of this is actually facility development, rehabilitation,

and that kind of thing.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  In that particular park,

where is the -- what's the time period for the 1.8

million --

          MR. DABNEY:  Two years.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  -- in our costs in

operating that park?  Now, we don't spend 1.8 million on

that park, a year.

          MR. DABNEY:  We spend, right now -- not

counting capital -- 335,000, 336,000 a year.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Okay.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  If you include capital,

what would you spend?

          MR. DABNEY:  Most of these things that we have

to do -- and here, we're going to have to do them --

          (Various voices in the background.)

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  We're going to have to do

them anyway.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  This funding -- the

funding that you're going to be able to utilize to do

this is funding we couldn't otherwise use to fix it --

          MR. DABNEY:  We could not.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  -- unless we did it in

that manner.  Correct?

          MR. DABNEY:  Right.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  All I want to know is if

there's a transfer.

          MR. DABNEY:  That's correct.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Because it comes from a

grant?

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Right.  That's correct.

          MR. DABNEY:  And so it doesn't hurt our capital

projects, or our bond projects, or our operating dollars

at all to fix this?  And for us to try to do it otherwise

and keep it, we would have to pull this out of Prop 8

money to fix it up.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Okay.

          MR. DABNEY:  So that's another good deal, I

think.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  And that makes it a good

deal for us, obviously.

          MR. DABNEY:  Yes, sir.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Let me ask you this.  What

is the current site improvements there, versus -- or was

that it?  Is there anything new?

          MR. DABNEY:  There --

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  In that 1.8 million, are

we going to do something new?

          MR. DABNEY:  This is what is there now, sir.

It's primarily --

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  I have been there.  And

it's a fully developed park, intensely developed park.

          MR. DABNEY:  And what we would do new -- new

things -- there's going to be one new restroom.  And

we're going to upgrade the existing screen shelters to

cabinettes.  And these are not fancy.  These are just --

what that allows you to do is, for example, put an air

conditioner or heater in there, so that you can use them

all year, as opposed to just in the better periods of

time.

          And that will help them be successful from a

revenue standpoint.  The last thing we want to do is try

to cut this short, make it difficult for them to be

successful, and get something like this back.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Okay.  I got it.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  You say you don't see any

others on the horizon.  Are we actively looking, yet, to

see if there might be some?  This one came in on its own.

Or did you all get this?

          MR. DABNEY:  No, sir.  I think we've done that.

As you recall, when House Bill 2108 was passed, this body

instructed us to send a letter to every subdivision in

the state that would be affected by it, that has a park

nearby.  And this is in response to that notice that 2108

is there, and if you had an interest.

          We've met and talked with a lot of different

people that walked away and said, No, we appreciate what

you're doing there.  And we're glad that you're going to

keep doing it.  These are the only ones that I see -- I

don't see any more coming as a result of that.

          And our recommendation -- I think the boss's

recommendation is employee morale, and otherwise, we call

it good and stop this business.  Except that as the law

stays in place, if someone does in fact come in, in the

future, and says, Hey, things have changed.  We want to

do it.  We certainly will talk to them.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Well, the only thing I'm

worried about, is this funding to continue?  Or what is

the process?

          MR. DABNEY:  Until the legislature changes it,

it stays in place.  And, again, it's just an

authorization to use part of that grant money for this

purpose.  If this wasn't here, we might could be using

that grant money to give additional grants.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  Are we not

proactively working on this from the Land and Water Plan?

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Yes.  I mean, we

prioritized some of our holdings in terms of --

          MR. COOK:  We have, in effect, done that.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  Yes?

          MR. COOK:  And we'll continue to do so.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  Before the plan had

gone out?

          MR. COOK:  Well, even before the plan.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  The plan and what you are

talking about, the directive, were not necessarily

directly connected.  But they are consistent with each

other.

          MR. DABNEY:  Yes, ma'am, they are.  And that

list that's in the plan -- whether there's a list or not,

we still have the authority to divest on any given site.

The purpose of the list in the plan was, if we had an

opportunity, those would be our highest priority to

transfer.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  With regard to that

list, I think we already explored the possibility of

entities other than those local governments taking those

over, and maintaining use and preservation requirements.

Let's don't stop if the cities don't want them.  It

wasn't the intention, I think, in writing that plan, that

we limit ourselves to local governments.

          MR. COOK:  We have not limited ourselves to

local governments.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  We have not.

          MR. DABNEY:  The only problem is money.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  The funding.

          COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY:  The only problem

is --

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Walt, is there a ceiling

on the amount --

          MR. DABNEY:  It's $2 million.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  -- accepted for transfer?

          MR. DABNEY:  $2 million a year is what we're

authorized -- the only problem with what the Commissioner

is saying is that the money can only be transferred to a

subdivision of the state.  If it's a private, nonprofit

situation and they're willing to take it, we cannot fix

it up for them using for state money.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  When do you apply for this

money, Walt?

          MR. DABNEY:  I'm sorry.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  What's the cutoff date

applying for this money?

          MR. DABNEY:  There is none.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  There is none.  Okay.

          MR. DABNEY:  Not until the legislature -- now,

if they took it, then they could come to Tim for a local

park grant, possibly, if the city or county would support

that, and get a grant, once they owned the site that they

took.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Now, I think everybody

recognizes that these are sensitive issues.  People care

deeply about their park and all that.  And we certainly

understand that.  But I also think that it's important

that you all are doing your job looking at these

situations, and trying to work things out with the local

folks to do something that works for them, that works for

us.

          And that people understand that -- I think I

can speak for the Commission in saying that we do not

view, necessarily, quantity as the way to fulfill our

mission.  It may be in some cases.  It may be not in

others.

          But that we need to look at each of these

situations individually and make sure that what we're

trying to accomplish here fits within the larger vision

that we have for what you all are charged with doing.

And I think the Kerrville-Schreiner situation here is a

perfect example of where it's working out.

          COMMISSIONER AVILA:  Yes, ma'am.

          MR. COOK:  I just -- I say thanks to Walt and

his staff for working so closely with the city and the

folks in the community.  There is a lot of personal -- as

the Chairman just said, there's a lot of personal

attachment to many of these parks.  Some of the families

were involved in putting these parks together.

          And this has been done very out in the open --

meetings with the local folks, time and time again -- to

be sure that this is something that they support, and

that they will continue to provide those services.

          MR. DABNEY:  I think the city will be here

tomorrow to talk to you as well.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Well, I would concur that

we've made some real good progress in this area.  I know

that the purpose of my asking the question about what we

were doing proactively was to see if this area, if you

felt like there's need for follow-up.  And I think you've

answered that -- that you're satisfied that the likely

candidates have been taken care of, and anything now

would have to come as an initiative from the local

entity.

          MR. DABNEY:  Yes.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Is that correct?  Is that

right?

          MR. DABNEY:  I think that's true.  And the

common questions back to us are, Are you going to shut it

down?  And when the answer is no, then the response is,

Why would we take it over?

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Why would we want it?

Very good.  Well, thank you, very good -- good job.  This

item is a good item.  Is there any further discussion on

it today?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  There being no questions

or discussion further, without objection, please say,

aye, to go before the commission meeting for public

comment and action.

          Was there any other business to come before the

committee, Madame Chairman?

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  I think there is.  Is this

the appropriate time to ask Scott Boruff to step up here

and make an announcement?

          MR. BORUFF:  Madame Chairman, Commissioners, my

name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of

Operations.  And it is with great pleasure, I would like

to announce that we've selected our new Director of the

Infrastructure Division.  And it's Mr. Steve Whiston.

          (Applause.)

          MR. BORUFF:  He will actually take over sooner

than immediately, since he's been in this role for the

last six months.

          CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG:  Steve, I'm still waiting

for those stain colors.  Congratulations!

          MR. WHISTON:  Thank you.  I'm looking forward

to it.

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  Is there any other

business before the Finance Committee?

          (No response.)

          COMMISSIONER ANGELO:  If not, Madame Chairman,

the committee is adjourned.

          (Whereupon, this Finance Committee meeting was

concluded.)

                 C E R T I F I C A T E



MEETING OF:     Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

               Finance Committee

LOCATION:      Austin, Texas

DATE:          January 22, 2003

          I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages,

numbers 1 through , 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 Department.






                                              02/12/03
                         (Transcriber)         (Date)

                         On the Record Reporting, Inc.
                         3307 Northland, Suite 315
                         Austin, Texas 78731



Back to Top
Back to Top