Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 26, 2004Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of May, 2004, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas Texas (absent)
- John D. Park, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas (absent)
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Robert L. Cook, Executive
Director, and other personnel
of the Texas Parks and Wildlife
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Convening the Finance Committee. The first order of business is the approval of the committee minutes, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Holt, thank you. All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The motion carries. Chairman's Charges. Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. Commissioners, in reviewing the Chairman's Charges, staff have completed all of the specific legislation and direction provided by the 78th Legislature. Staff continue to focus on recurring charges included in their review, and implementation of the Business Practice Improvement Plan, which includes several of the state auditor recommendations.
Mary Fields will provide an update on the status of that plan during her presentation. And our internal auditor is conducting a follow-up review of all of the items in the Business Practice Improvement Plan to ensure that progress continues in those programs. They are very important to us, and we are continuing to focus on it.
Second item, our first year of free fishing in state parks, which came through this committee, appears to be a huge success. In supporting our goals to increase hunting and fishing participation and improving public access to the outdoors, staff has recommended to me that we continue this free fishing program in fiscal year 2005. We have watched it very closely, particularly from the state parks areas, where there was some opportunity for concerns about law enforcement issues, and we have seen no significant problems in those areas, and people are still learning about this program. They love it when they get there.
And so I agree with staff's recommendation and with you, unless you have something different, I plan to continue that program for another year. It is something that by rule, I have to do. I have to say, okay, yes, we are going to do this to allow free fishing.
House Bill 2971, we now have TPWD identity license plates available for trailers. This was just one of those steps where boat trailers, camping trailers and that kind of thing, they can acquire those specialty identity plates now. And we have a news release and other publicity efforts in the works.
Internet sale of hunting and fishing license. Big item. Something that we have been working on for four or five years, knowing that that is available and that there is an interest in it. In mid-May, about two weeks ago, we started selling 30 of our most popular hunting and fishing licenses via the internet. We are just getting started, just beginning to get a feel for it. We are not really pushing it real hard, out in the public, because we want to make sure that our systems and our machinery works. That we are able to fulfill and that we able to deal with it. And not have any major bugs right at this time.
It is an interesting process, you know, and we had a really good discussion the other day. You know, one of the things that is bad about me is, that one of the questions I always ask these guys is, okay, we know it is convenient; we know it is something that people want, but is it cost-effective? And that is something that I am going to be looking at pretty closely, in our internet and in all of the different — we have five or six different ways that you can acquire a hunting and/or fishing license now. And we are looking at every one of them. Mary and Brenda, Drew and their staff, every one of them.
There are associated costs in either what we pay the folks at Wal-Mart or wherever it may be for every license sold, or through the internet, there are service charges for fulfillment. Having to mail that. The time involved, personnel, whoever it is. So, we are looking at each one of those components and I'll be looking at this one pretty close, because there is some question in some of the states that have internet sales about the cost efficiency and effectiveness. So, we'll be watching that one. But we will be fully implemented and in gear when we start our next license year.
Last item that I want to let you know about, our bid proposals for the East Texas Fish Hatchery Project are due to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation by 5:00 p.m. this Friday, the 28th of May. Our staff, our freshwater fisheries staff, Phil and Gary Saul and those folks will be working very closely with the Foundation in reviewing those proposals, looking at the technical aspects of the proposals and evaluating them. So, move it along there, and I think that process is going to go well for us. Thank you, sirs.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any questions for Mr. Cook? Item number two, Financial Review Update. Ms. Mary Fields?
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mary Fields, Chief Financial Officer, and I am here to provide the financial review. The focus of our presentation today will be to provide a revenue and budget status for fiscal year 2004 and to give you a status on the Business Improvement Plan that Mr. Cook just mentioned.
We'll start out with revenue and budget status. We really have only progressed a month since the last time that I reported the financial information to you, so you will see that there is a lot of similarities in this report to last month's report, so we'll go ahead and get started.
When comparing state park gross receipts through March 23, we are up 10.8 percent or $1.2 million over last year's collections. While almost all of the categories of park revenue are showing some increase, the largest component continues to be from the use of facilities and the reservation deposits. The increase is also supported by the sale of the State Park Pass, which began in January. And we have seen a 38 percent increase in the number of passes sold from January through March, as compared to the Conservation Pass from last year. As we move into the Spring, we expect to see the revenues continue to pick up and into the Summer as well.
Our boat revenue as of March 31 is up 27.2 percent, or $1.7 million compared to last year at this same time. Again, the increased revenue in this area really relates primarily to the increased fees as the number of boat registration and titles continues to be less than it was in the past year. We have picked up some pace since last month. The reductions are not as large, so we are making some headway here, but we are still not tracking as closely as we were last year. We continue to transfer 15 percent of registration and titling revenue to Fund 64, which amounts to a little over a million dollars, based on the revenues through March 31.
More positive news on the license revenues and sales as of March 31, we are at $70 million, which is $11.1 million higher as compared to last year, or 19 percent, which closely relates to that fee increase. Excuse me. Combo, on this one I did want to mention combo revenue is up 19 percent. Fishing revenue is up 27 percent. Hunting is up 24 percent, and other licenses are up 7 percent.
Now, I'll move on to that next one. Our total licenses sold, as you all know, help support those revenue increases that I just spoke of. Our total number of licenses sold are up 2.3 percent as of March 31. Hunting is up 2.7 percent. Fishing is up four, and total combo sales continue to be down by about 2.8 percent when compared to last year's sales. Again, this is just tracking really close to what I reported last month.
When comparing our fiscal year 2004 revenue collections, as of March 31, to the annual revenue estimate, we are looking pretty good here. With 58 percent of the fiscal year elapsed, we have collected 67.7 percent of our Fund 9, Game Fish and Water Safety funds, 58.6 percent of the State Park funds, 59.2 percent of Local Park funds, and our other category is already at 100 percent. Again, there are nine funds included in that other category, and most of them are collecting more than the estimate.
In reviewing our budget versus expenditures, as of March 31, you can see we have $158.1 million, or 49.8 percent of the budget remaining as of March 31, with 58 percent of the fiscal year elapsed.
Salaries and other personnel costs are right where they should be with 42.9 percent of the budget remaining. The benefits are tracking fairly close to the salaries at 47.1 percent. Operating and equipment is also moving as expected with 56.4 percent of the budget remaining. We have issued several of the grants, as expected, and we have got 29.5 percent of that budget remaining and capital projects are at 72.6 percent of the budget remaining, with several of those projects extending into next year.
Our overall budget has increased by $9.8 million since the end of February. Budget adjustments made during March are summarized on this slide. As you can see, the primary activity really occurred in the grants and federal funds category with $9.7 million. There was one really large transaction in there, that I will mention. It was the $8 million grant that will be made to Travis County for the Grandview Hills acquisition. And the rest of them are much smaller, and I am not really going to go into detail there.
With business improvement, we are making some headway. During the past month we have completed one more item as we implemented our virtual hold technology for park reservations, and we moved one item from the 50 to 90 percent complete category as we are making headway there with our ability to access information from our financial system. In referencing this slide, you can see we have 84 percent of the 94 action items complete. Eleven percent are at least 70 percent complete and five are below 60 percent complete, and again, those are the ones that relate to some of the automated systems.
And that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any questions for Mary?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I guess the one is the $8 million you referred to. Is that coming from the feds, flows through us and then goes?
MS. FIELDS: It is a grant, and it went through wildlife.
MR. COOK: It was simply a pass-through.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is it a pass-through? But we show it as revenue in the house? Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any further questions?
Thank you very much, Mary. Now you're still up. LAR and the strategic fund.
MS. FIELDS: Yes. And I will ask Julie Horsley to join me. I'll start. Julie and I are going to give you an update on the Strategic Plan and the Legislative Appropriations Request. Julie Horsley is our strategic planner, and she will actually cover the information regarding the Plan, and then I'll follow her with some update on the LAR, so I'll hand it over to Julie.
MS. HORSLEY: Good morning. My name is Julie Horsley. I am a Program Specialist in the Budget and Planning Section of Administrative Resources Division. As Mary mentioned, I will be providing an update on the Strategic Plan, and the status of our proposed budget structure changes.
Each agency is required by provisions of the Government Code to engage in the Strategic Planning process and to prepare and submit a five-year Strategic Plan every two years. The statutory provisions, as well as more specific instructions issued by the LBB and the Governor's Office, require each agency's Strategic Plan to include certain specific elements. For example, each plan has to include a statement of agency mission and philosophy and goals, objectives and strategies.
Plans are also required to include an internal and external assessment of the factors impacting the agency as well as performance measures that gauge progress towards achievement of goals and strategies. The goals and strategies that are set forth in agency Strategic Plans form the agency's Strategic Planning and budget structure and provide the framework through which agencies request and receive legislative appropriations.
The department's strategic planning process began in December when we first solicited division and employee input into revisions to the structure and the actual Strategic Plan document. As part of this process, we made a concerted effort to ensure consistency with the Land and Water Plan, and where possible, we have tried to incorporate information gathered from the Land and Water Plan focus group meetings into the Plan.
In terms of due dates, as mentioned at the previous commission meeting, the proposed structure changes were due to the LBB and the Governor's Office on April 2 and the final Strategic Plan is due on July 2.
There are a few key points that I would like to bring to your attention regarding the structure changes that we submitted to the LBB and the Governor's Office.
First, the proposal represents a departure from our previous structure in that the goals, objectives and strategies are organized more along divisional lines. This is really to ensure a more simplified budgeting process and to eliminate confusion regarding which divisions are included within each strategy.
Second, the proposal includes a more detailed line item level of information for each strategy that delineates the programs and activities that are associated with each strategy. This is something that the Governor's Office and the LBB requested that we add. And it is really something that they have done across the board with other agencies as well. If you are interested in seeing the details of the goals and strategies in these line items, there was a handout that was provided to each of you earlier that includes that information.
Finally, as part of our proposed structure changes, we did request a number of changes to our performance measures. The majority of these were needed to accurately reflect our activities under the new proposed structure. We have had one meeting with the Governor's Office and the LBB that was held on May 4 to discuss the structure and the measures. In general, those offices seemed very receptive to the changes that we had submitted. And while we haven't received formal approval of anything yet, we have received indications that they are very likely to approve the structure with just some minor changes. Negotiations regarding the performance measures are still ongoing, but we hope to have them wrapped up within the next few weeks.
I would also like to highlight some of the more significant changes being made to the Strategic Plan document.
First the document reflects revisions to the agency philosophy statement, to incorporate some of the agency guiding principles that were a topic of discussion during Land and Water Focus Group meetings.
Second, we have updated the information in the plan regarding the key events impacting the agency. The updated Strategic Plan includes information regarding changes in leadership, key staff, and reorganizations as well as the adoption and subsequent revisions that are being made to the Land and Water Plan.
Third, the plan summarizes some of the key legislative initiatives that we'll be pursuing during the upcoming legislative session. For example, the plan highlights some of our more significant funding needs during the upcoming biennium. We'll be requesting additional GO Bond authority and debt service, additional funding for state parks and obtaining additional capital budget authority for vehicles and equipment. We realize that these are still under review, but we wanted to include just a high-level summary of those in the Plan at this time.
Finally, we have added a new section on priority issues and challenges to the Plan. It identifies Land and Water Plan implementation and water issues as our two top priorities for the agency, and explains that the goals and strategies in the Strategic Plan really just provide a broad framework within which those priorities will be addressed. The section also provides more detailed information on the programs and activities included within each strategy, the issues and challenges, and the current year activities associated with each. This presentation was really just intended to provide you with a general overview of the direction we are planning to head with the Strategic Plan. A draft of the Plan has also been provided to each of you today. The same draft has been circulated internally for review and comment as well. As previously mentioned, a number of the elements in the plan are either required in statute or instruction and aren't really subject to change at this point.
However, we would like to ask the Commission to review the document, to make sure that you are comfortable with the contents, and if you have any questions or comments, to get back with us by June 14. Once the comments and edits resulting from the review process have been incorporated, the final plan will need to be approved and signed by the executive director and the chairman of the commission.
And that concludes my presentation. I'll hand it over to Mary, unless you have any questions at this time.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to comment how much I appreciate this young lady and the work that she has put in on this project in working with each of the division directors. Working with our legislative contacts that we have to deal with, the folks downtown, the oversight agencies and such. Scott Boruff and Gene and their efforts on updating and filling out our Land and Water Plan, and coordinating these together.
We have all these different kind of planning documents that we have operated through the years and there's never been a really good, hard, solid connection. We are going to have that now, and I think it is worth a lot. Long term, it gives — staff always has that guiding set of documents that are consistent with each other, and that take us to the same point. So, I appreciate your help, Julie. You have done a great job.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Julie.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Thank you. So this is kind of the first time, then, Bob, that this has all been tied together like this way?
MR. COOK: That is correct. They have different purposes, different people want these documents. They want their documents a certain way. But we are trying to incorporate into that, okay, you want it your way, you want it on this date, at this time, but we want it to match with our other guiding documents, operational plans and Strategic Plans.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MS. FIELDS: I'll go ahead if there are no more questions on the Strategic Plan, and just give you a quick update on where we are on the LAR for fiscal year 2006 and '07. Preparation, we're under way with the LAR prep. We had anticipated receiving instructions in May. We have not received them yet. It could be early June before we actually receive the instructions to prepare the LAR.
We can start, though, on the work. And the budget structure that Julie just mentioned that is in the Strategic Plan — those goals, objectives and strategies really establish the framework for our LAR. And with the changes that we're negotiating currently, it will change the look of our LAR. So we are pulling together the rollups to pull that financial information into the framework of the structure that you are seeing in the Plan.
Our fiscal year 2005 operating budget is in process. Right now, we anticipate completing that in June, or toward the end of June. The reason I mention that budget, is that it does help establish our base for fiscal year 2006 and '07, along with our projected expenditures for fiscal year 2004. So, what happens in '04 and '05 helps establish our base for '06 and '07.
We are currently requesting divisional input on capital items, equipment and that sort of thing. We do want to make sure that we are incorporating all of our needs that go above the base and those are normally requested via exceptional items. Julie mentioned a few of the legislative initiatives. I believe you have received a draft of those initiatives and those are currently under review. There will be exceptional items that will correlate with the funding associated with those initiatives.
In July, we have scheduled a budget workshop, mid-July. We will get into more detail regarding the LAR and the '05 operating budget at that time. Just a reminder that the LAR is due in August, and it will be probably around the 20th of the month. And that's really my, that concludes my presentation.
MR. COOK: Do we have a definite date on the budget workshop that all of you are invited to and welcome to?
MS. FIELDS: Yes, sir. It is on Thursday, July 15. And I believe it starts at 1:00 in the afternoon. From 1:00 to 4:00.
MR. COOK: I just wanted to absolutely make sure that you know that you are welcome to attend that. It will be a very open session and freewheeling and looking forward to your involvement and input in that, and hope you can make it.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Does that complete your presentation, Mary?
MS. FIELDS: That completes my presentation.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Are there any questions or discussion for Mary? Thank you very much.
MS. FIELDS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Item number four. Non-profit Partners Resolution. Gene?
MR. MCCARTY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Gene McCarty. I am Chief of Staff. The item before you today is a Non-profit Partner Resolution. Pursuant to Senate Bill 305 which is our Sunset Bill, the Department is authorized to cooperate with non-profit partners. However, the Department must obtain Commission approval for each non-profit partner that it works with.
In May of 2002, the Commission adopted a resolution authorizing the Department to cooperate with 65 closely related non-profit partners. These are fringe groups that work mostly at the state parks and wildlife management areas. The Commission also authorized us to work with 101 other non-profit partners. These are mostly partners like Ducks Unlimited, Coastal Conservation Association, et cetera.
In an effort to update the current lists, staff would propose the following additions to the closely related non-profit partner list. These are newly formed partner groups that are working with us: Devil's Sinkhole Society, the San Jacinto Battleground Association, and the Friends of Sheldon Lake, and the following other non-profit partners: Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Camp Coca-Cola Foundation, the Houston Wilderness, Inc., Texas Land Trust Council and the World Birding Center, Inc.
To recognize the Commission's approval of the addition, we would propose the following Commission resolution, to authorize the aforementioned additions to our non-profit partner list. Do you have any questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: How do you vet these? I mean, non-profit groups are fine. I mean, some of these I know, and some I don't know. How do you decide which ones you want to work with, and which ones you don't?
MR. MCCARTY: Well, basically, if we have some kind of a standing relationship with a non-profit partner, either we are giving them a grant, or they are giving us a grant, or we are working on a cooperative project, for example, the bays and estuaries program, we are getting a grant from them to do some shoreline stabilization work in the Corpus Christi area. Those sort of things are what we basically use to make the decision on whether we are going to bring them to the table to be on the list. Ducks Unlimited, for example, we do millions of dollars of quality work with them.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. They're well known, like Camp Coca-Cola Foundation.
MR. MCCARTY: Camp Coca-Cola Foundation is working with us and on Parrie Haynes project, in which they are, Camp Coca-Cola itself, which is not a non-profit, did a great deal of work with us. We are now working with their non-profit foundation to do some additional support work there in our Parrie Haynes Youth Camp Program.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, I got you.
MR. COOK: Just to give you an idea, Commissioner Holt, those folks at Parrie Haynes put right at a billion dollars into infrastructure, improving that facility, and has been a great partner to work with. And our outreach group that works up there, kids, a lot of the facilities are [inaudible]. They really have stepped up on that one.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any further questions or discussion? Thank you, Gene. If there are no further questions or discussion, without objection, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item number five, Local Boat Ramp Grant funding. Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. I am Tim Hogsett, from Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division. Tomorrow, we are going to be bringing forward to you a request for one project for funding through the Boat Ramp program. These are federal dollars from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Fish Restoration Act. These are 75 percent matching grants to local governments and as these facilities are completed, these local governments then take permanent responsibility for operations and maintenance.
The particular application that we are bringing forward to you tomorrow is from the City of Corpus Christi for $500,000 and a 75 percent match, and that would be for the construction of a two-lane ramp and associated infrastructure facilities. This is located just before you cross the causeway going towards North Padre Island National Seashore. And I would be glad to answer any questions that you might have.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any questions for Tim? If there are no further questions or discussion, without objection, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you very much. Mr. Cook, anything further for the Finance Committee?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Hearing none, this business is complete.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Chairman Ned Holmes.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 26, 2004
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 23, 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
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