Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Finance Committee Meeting
Nov. 5, 2003Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 5th day of November, 2003, 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:
- Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas
- Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. ANGELO: Before convening the Finance Committee, I'd like to welcome some folks that we have with us this morning: Dr. Charles Blend, from Texas A&M, and 23 of his sophomore and junior students in an Introduction to Wildlife science course.
We're pleased to have you with us.
With that, we'll go to the Finance Committee.
The first item would be the approval of the Committee minutes. Are there any changes or corrections, or, if not, do we have a motion to approve?
MR. FITZSIMONS: So moved.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Second.
MR. ANGELO: All in favor say aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
MR. ANGELO: The first item on the agenda is the Strategic Planning Update from Scott Boruff.
MR. BORUFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director of Operations. I've been asked to give you an oral presentation today on our strategic planning process. I did take the liberty of preparing one slide, which I will show you towards the end of the presentation to kind of let you know where we are headed in kind of a visual representation.
The legislature charges each agency with an interim charge of preparing a strategic plan which usually is due in early summer before a legislative session. Our plan for the last – in excess of a decade has been called the Natural Agenda. We developed that plan primarily for strategic direction but, also, as a tool that the legislature uses to budget or allocate our budget to us.
This year, Mr. Cook has charged us with expanding the strategic planning process to include a fairly robust operational plan that will link to that strategic plan. We did have a little confusion early on about what to call this thing, I will share with you. And it's kind of interesting because we have a strategic plan, yet this is an operating strategic plan. So as we move forward, we will call this the operational plan, but I want you to understand that it is strategic in nature.
And one of the goals is to develop kind of a strategic operating net framework in which each of the divisions then could link specific operating details to in an operating plan that's division based. So clearly, the question we're trying to ask is, how are we going to operationalize the strategic plan?
In visiting with Mr. Cook about this yesterday and, I might mention, in almost every conversation I have with Mr. Cook, he always reminds me that the real job of this Agency is to do conservation and to do it better than we do, do more of it than we do, and to try to maximize our effectiveness and efficiency in doing conservation. So we will keep that charge high on our list as we move forward with this process. This is a conservation agency, and we intend to develop an operational plan that reflects that reality.
As background, particularly for some of the newer Commissioners, I'm going to share with you some of the other directives that Executive Director Cook has given us as we move forward with this process. The first, and probably the most important, is that we're going to promote conservation through activities that are consistent with, first of all, the mission of the Agency. And as you know, the mission of the Agency is to manage and conserve our natural and cultural resources and to promote hunting, fishing and all kinds of outdoor recreational activities that link people to nature.
The second tenet that we will use is that we will be consistent with the land and water conservation and recreation plan which this Commission approved last November and, I notice, Commissioner Fitzsimons is looking at right now. And if you don't have a copy of that, we'll be glad to get you one, particularly for the new Commissioners.
Now, the third tenet is that we want to be sure that we address our responsibility to manage our constituents' financial resources appropriately. Mr. Cook has reminded us as we move forward that good business practices and good conservation practices are not mutually exclusive and we need to be diligent about creating credible business practices that support our conservation efforts. And so as we put the plan together, we intend to do that.
Last and not least, we will develop this operational plan consistent with the state statute that has been mandated by the state legislature, as well as the Commission rules and the Commission directives that you good folks give us on a day-to-day basis.
The second major piece of the planning process will be to recognize the importance of reaching out to all citizens of Texas, and particularly the youth, to engage them in enjoying nature and promoting conservation, and we will do this in a lot of ways. For example, our mission statement says that we will promote hunting, fishing and outdoor opportunities. And we plan to do so.
We have been charged to emphasize incentives over regulations as kind of win/win tools to promote participation in good land conservation practices through some of our permit programs like the NLDP programs through the Wildlife Division that incentivize land owners to do good conservation practices. And in return, they get expanded bags and season limits and those kinds of things.
The third major tenet that Mr. Cook has charged us with in this process is to base decisions in sound practical science. And as you may or may not know, we have directed the resource divisions this year to undertake a robust scientific review. Under the sponsorship of Dr. McKinney, the divisions have initiated that process or are reaching out for independent peer reviews of the scientific processes that are going on.
Clearly, if we're going to continue to be the leaders in science in terms of natural resources in the State of Texas, we want to stay ahead of the curve. So we will link the strategic operating plan, or the operational plan, to that reality.
I think we've talked about it a lot in the Regulations Committee here, but Mr. Cook has also charged us to focus on ecosystem-wide habitat management as the primary tool as we look at programs and activities within the Agency. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that because you've heard that many times today, but bigger, broader habitats and ecosystems that focus on habitat management will be critical to the operations of this Agency in the future.
And then, last but not least, he has charged us to recognize that water is in fact the lowest common denominator of conservation; without water, we're not going to do very good at taking care of the land, the animals or the fish that we're charged to take care of. In that regard, the process that we're going to use to try to put together this operational plan is to define essentially ten water basins or combinations of water basins across the state.
For the Commissioners that are relatively new, we particularly in the Wildlife Division historically have used a terrestrial-based ecosystem model with some 11 ecosystems terrestrial defined across the state. We still value that, and we still understand that it's an important tool. This tool will not replace it; it will augment it.
But this tool will – at least in the strategic planning process, or the – better said, the operational planning process, will look at water basins that in many cases span the state from the Cap Rock, as Mr. Cook said earlier, all the way through central Texas and down to Matagorda Bay, for example. Those ten ecosystems which are water basin defined will be the basis for which we go out and start this operational planning process.
We will overlay this map, if you will, over the terrestrial ecosystem map so that both are given due consideration as we put the strategic plan, the operating plan, together. We are in the process currently of identifying and putting together ten focus group meetings, one in each one of these eco-regions, which will be cross-divisionally represented. There will be representatives from every resource division at every one of the focus meetings.
The idea is to try to begin to move the teams more effectively than we have in the past to this kind of a multi-divisional approach to ecosystem management so that there's recognition that what the Wildlife Division is doing in the upland land management does have an impact on what Coastal Fisheries is doing down in the bays and estuaries of the State of Texas.
So it's kind of a teaming model that we're pretty excited about. We will be not only asking our own staff in that process – by the way, the goal here is to have enough information so that early on in the strategic planning process for LBB purposes, we can make sure that that document does not run afoul of where we're trying to go with this exercise.
So sometime late in February or early in March – the earlier the better according to our chief financial officer – we will be getting some information to her as she puts together the strategic plan that goes out to LBB to ensure that there's consistency between the operating plan and the strategic plan that goes up.
We will at that point continue our planning, and I don't think we'll be completed with that process early enough to have a formal operating document in place, but I hope to by early summer have that process completed and to have gone forward at that point to our constituent – our advisory boards and our myriad of constituent groups out there to let them look at the plan and let us know how they think it works.
Obviously, the Commission will be intimately involved as we move forward. We will be bringing this back to you, I suspect, on a regular basis over the next year or year-and-a-half to let you know where we are with the process. With that, I'll stop for a moment and see if you've got any questions.
CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Do we have any questions or discussion?
Yes, sir, Commissioner Montgomery?
MR. MONTGOMERY: Yes. I think that's a first-rate rendition of what the goals of the department ought to be. And I really compliment the deep approach. I assume that we're going to take people and programs and flow back up through that and overlay it with that set of goals.
And I welcome the opportunity. Thank you. I know I've talked about it a lot, and I really appreciate you taking it on as a task. That – I think that's going to be a great exercise.
In the list of goals, I'm wondering whether we can consider slight amplification of the section on incentives to say something to the effect of what, I believe, we practice, which is that, whenever possible, we seek private provision of services and achievement of goals through private means as a means of sustaining and expanding our presence and role, viewing ourselves as a catalyst and an initiator, but not necessarily as the sole service provider.
If we can broaden that statement a little bit, I think it would send a little broader signal and one that's consistent with our practice and what I hope our objectives are.
MR. BORUFF: We agree, Commissioner. In fact, if I read the broader statement – and I didn't prepare this for a handout yet. We would like to do a little bit more wordsmithing.
MR. MONTGOMERY: I was going to ask if you could circulate it when you're ready.
MR. BORUFF: We certainly will. And in fact, I mean that whole section relative to Mr. Cook's charges relative to private – using private land owners as the mechanism will indeed reflect that.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Well, my thought is broader than just private land owners, although that's probably the single biggest piece; it is the private provision of services and achievement of goals through private means. It's a very broad definition that really can cover everything that we do. And the – I personally think – behind it is that when you – if you can incentivize or initiate or cause some of the private sector to do what we want, you've just created a sustainable funding and it's still achievement of the goal.
I mean we can be the catalyst there. That's a very effective way for us to operate whenever we can and in any arena that we can.
MR. BORUFF: We agree. And in fact, there's one thing I didn't mention that I would like to say, and that is that, clearly, incentives are our preference. We would prefer to develop win/win incentives with all kinds of folks, the private land owners, the private sector, our constituent groups and others.
In those cases where we are required to regulate in order to protect the resource from waste and depletion, which is, by the way, the statutory language, we should regulate with simplicity, as we discussed earlier, we should develop regulations that are easy to understand and that make sense to the people that are using the resource and that are enforceable by our Law Enforcement Division. That clearly is a charge that under that section will be included.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, I – and, again, I – we're early in the process. We're okay here. And that's one reason we wanted to go ahead and bring it to you at this point in time. You know, my wish here would be – and whether we wait or proceed ahead is certainly your call.
I would like to recommend and suggest that we have at least two or three Commissioners actively involved in this process throughout this winter and spring. That way, we're getting your input as we're building these drafts. And, you know, this is going to come home to us very soon as we start, division within division, programs that go across divisions when we start our budget process this spring.
By the time we bring a proposed budget to you and begin to talk budget to you in at the – say, at the May meeting, when we'll have some of those first discussions, some of this thought process needs to be incorporated into that budget, because we have those – we have decisions to make as to priorities of how we're going to use our resources, how we're going to use our people, and how we're going to use the revenues that we have.
And it's a really good opportunity. It's never too early to start such a process and never too late to change, but sometimes, blessed as we are with the bureaucratic processes that we go through and the wide constituency that we serve, it takes awhile to turn this ship. And, you know, if we think three or four or five years down the road and we can see the opportunity here to direct and to help and to make this job more effective and better for the Commission and better for the people who work here and the resources that we serve, that's our hope.
And so I don't know how to go about it. I – like I say, I think this would be a good place in the Commission charges. But I know that in working with the Commissioners who were involved in the land and water planning process, it worked great. I mean there was involvement on queue, and it was from day one. And your help here would be welcomed.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I think Commissioner Montgomery makes a good point here. We – I think we too often just concentrate on the role of the private land owner as the private sector component and that there's – we need to encourage outdoor recreation, whether it's eco-tourism.
It has come to mind that this whole white-tailed deer surplus problem would have some – there could be some opportunities for entrepreneurs in the private sector to come up with some solutions that, as you say, become self-funding if they work. And we can't and we shouldn't do everything.
MR. ANGELO: Any other comments?
MR. HOLT: Well, if I can just ask one question? And I noticed this was something I received, me being new – something from Richard Bartlett. In fact, I guess it was addressed to you. Is this part of that, or is it – are we tying this together? I guess this is the –
MR. BORUFF: The outreach –
MR. HOLT: It's, "Taking Care of Texas."
MR. BORUFF: That is.
MR. HOLT: Yes?
MR. BORUFF: Right.
MR. HOLT: Okay. And you're – is this an operational overlay, or it's going to be part of this, or vice-versa? Or – I just want to understand how –
MR. BORUFF: That – Mr. Bartlett is the Chairman of our Outreach and Education Advisory Committee.
MR. HOLT: Right.
MR. BORUFF: We have scores of those committees out there, I think. At least, we have a bunch of them. We will indeed be working with every one of those committees –
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. BORUFF: – as we work forward as one of our constituent groups to try to be sure that their ideas are reflected in the plan –
MR. HOLT: Okay. Good.
MR. BORUFF: – as long as they're appropriate with conserving the resource –
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. BORUFF: – or are consistent with conserving the resource.
MR. COOK: Outreach and education is one of our major efforts –
MR. HOLT: Right.
MR. COOK: ‑‑ Mr. Holt. And ‑‑
MR. HOLT: I was just wondering how this tied.
MR. COOK: ‑‑ you know, it was of interest because it was a target in the budgeting process this time and received some significant cuts.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. BORUFF: Our Number 2 tenet said to recognize the importance of reaching out to all citizens of Texas to engage them in appreciating nature and promoting conservation. And I think that would fit.
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Montgomery?
MR. HOLT: Well, any kind of ‑‑ excuse me. I'm sorry.
MR. ANGELO: No. Excuse me, Commissioner Holt. Go ahead.
MR. MONTGOMERY: I was just going to add one thought to Peter's question, which is this does have that report ‑‑ if we accept that report, there's a really important mechanism that flows right in here, which is the requirement for all these projects to flow through an evaluation template which then comes to the Commission. And it's going to dovetail neatly, I think, with what Scott has undertaken here.
MR. HOLT: Yes. And that's what I thought, too.
MR. MONTGOMERY: So the first time, we have to look at it comprehensively and evaluate it program by program, as well as strategically.
MR. HOLT: And he talks about the marketing side. So it's more than just education. I mean that's what the effect of his focus is. Those of you on the Commission who are business people realize the danger of losing touch with our customers. So I mean it to me ‑‑ it seems to me a little more than just an educational ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: He's in the marketing business, and he ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Absolutely.
MR. ANGELO: He ‑‑ that's an excellent report.
MR. HOLT: Yes. I was just trying to figure out how this ties ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: I think Commissioner Holt makes a good point. It's that we can't, you know, let these reports and plans just sit out there on their own.
MR. HOLT: Right. Somebody has done a lot of work there.
MR. FITZSIMONS: They've got to be part of the plan.
MR. HOLT: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: And it's funny. I have the one Dick sent me clipped to the back of my land and water conservation plan. So it's ‑‑ I see it as being part of ‑‑ it's an execution document. Right? It's, how do we do that outreach part that's in the plan ‑‑
MR. BORUFF: That's correct.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ to specifically execute ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Yes.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Is that right?
MR. BORUFF: Yes, sir. There are many strategic documents in this Agency. I mean the strategic plan is the top dog, if you will, relative to the legislature, but these and other strategic plans are ‑‑ indeed, there are a number of them out there. I just think we're trying to pull those together and be able to prioritize them ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Right.
MR. BORUFF: ‑‑ in an operational fashion so that as we go through the budget process and we have limited resources and limited dollars, we'll know which kind of operating activities we should perform and which we can't afford to perform at your direction.
MR. HOLT: Well, that gets back to Phil's point, too, then, talking about trying to find other ways to fund them than maybe have been the normal ways, yes.
MR. ANGELO: Good point.
MR. ANGELO: Well, thank you, Scott, for a good presentation.
MR. HOLT: Yes.
MR. ANGELO: Item Number 3 is the Proposed Print Artwork Program, and Frances Stiles will present this discussion.
MR. ANGELO: There he is.
Bubba Wood is our key person on all these prints.
And we appreciate you being with us today, as always.
MR. WOOD: Thank you.
MS. STILES: Good morning. My name is Frances Stiles; I'm with the Administrative Resources Division.
Under the terms of the contract with Collector's Covey for artwork design and marketing of the Departmental print program, the Commission approves artwork each year for the water fowl non-game saltwater stamp and, now, the new freshwater fishery stamp. The artwork for these stamps is combined into a collector's version consisting of eight stamps which is offered for sale to the public.
Additionally, Collector's Covey offers the print reproductions through their established marketing network, and TPW receives a portion of the sale from each print. With me is Mr. Martin Wood to present the artwork.
MR. WOOD: I received a phone call on Monday that I have never received before but I knew someday was coming. And it was a call from Stuart Gentling, who is the ‑‑ he and his brother are the artists on the duck stamp this year ‑‑ to tell me their art wasn't ready. I ‑‑ you know, when you deal with artists, that's always the risk, although this, I think, is the first time I've ever had to, you know, come ‑‑ I'm always coming begging, but ‑‑ having to come really begging.
MR. WOOD: So we started hatching a plan: How are we going to pull this thing out of the ditch? And Stuart reminded me that he had ‑‑ that his brother Scott had done two portraits of the current president of the United States and that two of their other paintings hung in the White House and then just sort of took on a more rosy picture as he was talking ‑‑ that he had a ‑‑ that he and his brother, as living artists, had had a two-man exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum in New York, which ‑‑ let me assure you, this'll be a first for the duck stamp. I assure you.
And so I didn't feel quite so bad. They had done a very small rendering for my approval which is almost laughable that I hope ‑‑
Would you pass that among the Commissioners so you can see exactly what?
The original art is going to be like 20 by 24 that we will reproduce our print from. But, as we say in Wichita Falls, take a look at that sucker.
MR. WOOD: Let me show you some of these guys' artwork. Incidentally, they've ‑‑ well, I've been aware of the Gentlings for 20 years. They're the greatest, virtually unknown artists in Texas. And I would not have remotely had the nerve to ask them to do a duck stamp print, because that's just not what their art is about.
They had produced in 1986 a folio of birds called, "Birds in Texas," that had 2,500 prints in the edition, very, very expensive. That was an instant sell-out. Since we didn't make any money off of that, I ‑‑ that didn't interest me too much.
But this book, by the way, that has just been published by the University Press on that folio that was published in 1986 ‑‑ this was published in 2001 ‑‑ interestingly enough is dedicated to Katharine Armstrong and Ramona Bass. So, you know, their credentials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife are getting ‑‑ as of Monday are getting better and better and better.
MR. WOOD: Let me show you these pictures. These are just unbelievable. These are G. Clay prints. This is the official picture of Governor Bush that, I assume, now hangs in the rotunda of the capitol. These are two portraits of the ‑‑ I mean two landscapes of the Crawford Ranch. And I have one ‑‑ and this is an informal ‑‑ not-photograph, but ‑‑ painting ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: Look at that.
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ of President Bush. I mean you really need to ‑‑ I mean I ‑‑ it's just unbelievable. Anyway, they have promised me they will have finished art of the Goldeneye ‑‑ the American Goldeneye by December 7.
Stuart wrote me this incredible letter that when I ‑‑ to go with this portfolio apologizing and with the many reasons why they couldn't do it ‑‑ an opening in Lubbock for a show, and they're starting a new gallery in Fort Worth. And I called and told him that if he had spent time painting on the painting rather than writing this letter, we would have had the finished art. But he didn't see the humor of that.
MR. WOOD: But, hopefully, you all will indulge us and approve this little, small study for the duck stamp art.
The other art is, of course, the saltwater art of a blue marlin by Don Ray, who once before has done our freshwater art ‑‑ several years ago. The turkey print is by ‑‑ the turkey original is by Eldridge Hardy. The new freshwater stamp art is, of course, the large-mouthed bass by Mark Sazino, who is unquestionably the most noted underwater fish painter ‑‑ freshwater fish painter in the country.
The kingfisher for the non-game stamp is by Joe Hawkman, who has done the duck stamp for us once before and also did the Golden Eagle many years ago that was part of the non-game stamp program. And then, of course, the duck stamp will be signed ‑‑ for the first time ‑‑ by both Scott and Stuart Gentling. I don't know exactly how we're going to do that, but, believe me, with that kind of art, we'll figure it out.
But Katharine Armstrong is really responsible for the Gentlings being in the loop, and I can't thank her enough, despite their tardiness, because it really is remarkable art. And of course, it's very much in the style of John James Audubon, which really sort of puts a new artistic wrinkle on the duck stamp that I think people will really appreciate.
MR. ANGELO: Oh, I think those are fabulous paintings ‑‑ all of them.
MR. WOOD: Thank you.
MR. ANGELO: I mean that's a terrific collection there.
Does anyone have a different expression?
MR. HOLT: Normally, when is the duck stamp supposed to be available or out? I don't know the time.
MR. WOOD: The duck stamp is marketed, Commissioner Holt in ‑‑ it's always approved in November.
MR. HOLT: Oh. Okay.
MR. WOOD: We start marketing it in January.
MR. HOLT: Good.
MR. WOOD: And actually, it's ‑‑ the duck stamp is a time-limited edition. We take orders until June 30. Most of the collectors now are matching number collectors that have been ‑‑ this is the 24th year of the duck stamp.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. WOOD: And we are now delivering ‑‑ the 2003 duck stamp is literally being shipped from our warehouse ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ right now. We pay the state on January 31 of each year for the preceding year's royalty. And that's the way it has been forever ‑‑ I mean since 1981.
MR. HOLT: So how far back would that ‑‑ I mean how far does this push you back relative to having ‑‑
MR. WOOD: Oh, it's a non-event.
MR. HOLT: A non-event?
MR. WOOD: It's an absolute non-event.
MR. HOLT: Okay. It's not ‑‑
MR. WOOD: We wouldn't do anything with these ‑‑ we wouldn't do ‑‑ other than the fact that we didn't ‑‑ it's hardly a non-event when you appear before the Parks and Wildlife Commissioner without ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Without the ‑‑
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ the art.
MR. WOOD: But I mean it ‑‑ really, from an operational standpoint, it's a non-event.
MR. HOLT: Okay. That was my question. Okay.
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Holt, we would have ‑‑ the Commission would have the option of not approving it as a final ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Right.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ until we saw the final print, but ‑‑
MR. WOOD: Right.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ I would not recommend that. I hope that we ‑‑
MR. WOOD: I mean believe me. These guys ‑‑ if they're willing to put their name on it, we are ‑‑ you know, we should feel really lucky to have these guys doing this. I mean this is art on a level that you don't get to see very often.
And I mean, you know ‑‑ and they are as thrilled about doing the duck stamp almost as doing the president of the United States' photograph I mean, because they're ‑‑ basically, they're bird guys ‑‑ I mean they could paint anything, but these guys cut their teeth and really made their bones painting birds in the style of Audubon. I mean ‑‑ and they really are fabulous.
MR. ANGELO: Are there any other further comments or discussion?
MR. MONTGOMERY: I have a question. In the August dinner for departing Chairman Armstrong, you indicated that as a government contractor, you had ‑‑ felt it was important to comment on the quality of the administration of Texas Parks and Wildlife at the time. Do you have any update to your ‑‑
MR. WOOD: No. I'm waiting to see who the truly ‑‑ and this ‑‑ most of you all were there. But I say it ‑‑ only partially tongue in teeth, I confess my political bisexuality ‑‑
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ by ‑‑ which I think is a primary ingredient for being a state contractor for almost 25 years ‑‑
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ and ‑‑ although I'm seeing a trend here, you know. I'm getting some religion.
MR. WOOD: And that ‑‑ you know, it started off with Mr. Bass as the greatest chairman. And it went through, and, of course, now, Katharine was the greatest chairman. I'm waiting to see who the really greatest chairman will be, which, I assume, is forthcoming.
MR. WOOD: But I assure you, I ‑‑ if nothing else, I'm adaptable.
VOICE: That's smart.
MR. HOLT: Yes, right.
MR. ANGELO: Any further discussion?
MR. COOK: Let it never be said that a presentation by Mr. Wood is a non-event.
MR. ANGELO: Absolutely.
MR. WOOD: You know, I'm sure you all know that we have ‑‑ still, at this late date, we have the duck stamp program that every state in the union wishes they had. And frankly, the reason they don't is they didn't have the political toughness to when they started ‑‑ you know, they've limited their artists to only state residents ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Yes.
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ which in some sense makes all the sense in the world, but it doesn't result in the best art. And by giving us the latitude to go nationwide to the most famous duck stamp guys and still go back in-state when ‑‑ we have a very disproportionate number of Texas artists who have been the ‑‑ have done the various artwork.
I mean that helped us really put together the best program ever, you know. And that coupled with, you know, the 20 million crazy Texans didn't hurt, either, you know. The pride, you know, that we have in the state has really made our program the envy of everyone. It's not what it used to be, but it's still a lot better than anyone else's.
And it's a real ‑‑ you know, it's our identity as a company, Collector's Covey. I mean that ‑‑ we may be known for other things, but people really think about the Texas duck stamp and, you know, the opportunity we've had there. And I thank you all for that.
MR. ANGELO: Mr. Wood is helping us with the quail council with the fund-raising item that we're working on. And he continues to do lots of good things for Parks and Wildlife, and we appreciate it.
MR. HOLMES: One quick comment. Bubba, thank you for your help ‑‑
MR. WOOD: You bet.
MR. HOLMES: ‑‑ in bringing Jack Cowan down for the foundation.
MR. WOOD: Oh, that was ‑‑ you know, that was the ‑‑ this is ‑‑ we're talking about the fund-raiser for Parks and Wildlife Foundation last month. That was the nicest Parks and Wildlife event ‑‑ in my 30 years of being really involved with the Department, that's the nicest event I've ever been to. And it was really, really nice.
And then Cowan had ‑‑ you know, he complained before, but he didn't complain afterwards. He had a great time. You know, he's a real Texas treasure, I'll tell you, for sure.
MR. HOLMES: One last question. Where are these guys from?
MR. WOOD: They're from Fort Worth.
MR. HOLMES: Oh.
MR. WOOD: And Stuart would ‑‑ who's, I think, just a year or ‑‑ I don't think they're twins, but they're very close to the same age. And they're just lifelong ‑‑ they ‑‑ neither one of them are married, and they live together. And they paint together.
And Stuart would tell you that Scott is the great artist and he's an okay artist. I'd say they're both great artists. But I mean they just ‑‑ they do their own thing. They sort of personally market their work.
I mean they are big-time serious guys that I just wouldn't have had the nerve to ask. You know, it just never would have occurred to me that these guys ‑‑ and, of course, because of Katharine and because of their love of birds and seeing the duck stamp program, they wanted to be a part of it. And, you know, that's ‑‑ it's a great thing for us.
I don't think it's going to affect our sales particularly, but we recognize there's considerable down-side potential in our sales and if we don't keep the art quality up, you know, we're not going to continue to have the sales that we have.
And I was ‑‑ I went from being really upset to ‑‑ I spent a lot of time over the last couple of days trying to come up with my little dog and pony show and how I was going to sell this, but after I saw the portraits of Bush, I knew I was probably ‑‑ there couldn't have been a better time to make this pitch. Anyway ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: Any further discussion?
MR. WOOD: ‑‑ you all are nice to let me off the hook. It ‑‑ I'll try not to make this a habit. But until I paint better, I ‑‑ you know, I'm not in control.
MR. ANGELO: Well, we appreciate it.
If there's no further discussion, we'll place this item on Thursday's Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Bubba, thank you, as always.
MR. WOOD: You bet. Thank you.
MR. ANGELO: Thank you, Frances.
MS. STILES: Thank you.
MR. ANGELO: The next item on the agenda is grants. And Mr. Tim Hogsett will make the presentation.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of the Recreational Grants Program in the State Parks Division. Tomorrow, on Item 12, we will be asking you for approval of the grants for four local governments for the construction of boat ramps.
The program is a federal pass-through program from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service known as the Sport Fish Restoration Act. These are 75 percent matching grants; the local governments are required to match a 25 percent share. And the local government also agrees that they will own the site and that they will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the facility.
We received four grant applications for our last deadline, requesting $1.737 million in 75 percent matching funds assistance. The four are: Cameron County, requesting $490,000; Comal County, requesting $371,000; the City of Missouri City, requesting half-a-million, and; the City of Orange, requesting $375,000.
We also are taking care of what we consider to be a housekeeping item. Back in 1967, the Department built a boat ramp for Calhoun County. In those days, we required if we were going to expend state resources that we owned the property. So Calhoun County transferred that property to us, and we assisted them in construction of a boat ramp.
We have subsequently just completed a major renovation of that boat ramp, and they are also looking for some additional outside private and public funding to do some more work at that site, and they desire to have that property back so that they can have legal control and enable them to have more flexibility. So we're asking you to authorize us to return that property to Calhoun County.
And that's basically what we'll be bringing to you tomorrow, asking you for your approval of these four grants and this land transfer. And I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.
MR. HENRY: Mr. Chairman?
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Henry?
MR. HENRY: On the Missouri City grant, it's just a question. It says it will be located on a lake north of the city. Does that jive with the comment regarding the city's ownership? Or is that part of Missouri City? Or ‑‑
MR. HOGSETT: Yes. That is city-owned property.
MR. HENRY: It is city-owned property?
MR. HOGSETT: Yes, it is.
MR. HENRY: Okay.
MR. HOGSETT: All four of these properties are owned by the local governments making the applications, and that's a basic requirement of the program.
MR. HENRY: That's what I was thinking. I just wondered the way that was listed.
MR. ANGELO: Any other questions or comments?
MR. ANGELO: There being none, we'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
MR. HOGSETT: Thank you, very much.
MR. ANGELO: Thank you, Mr. Hogsett.
Item Number 5: We have a financial review presented by Mary Fields.
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mary Fields, Chief Financial Officer. And I'm here to provide the financial review.
The focus of our presentation today will be to recap some of the financial highlights from Fiscal Year 2003, provide a revenue and budget status for Fiscal Year 2004, update you on some of the legislative riders that were pending in August when the Fiscal Year 2004 budget was approved and update you on the progress we've made on the Business Improvement Plan. We'll start with the '03 highlights.
When comparing our Fiscal Year 2003 revenue collections to the annual revenue estimates, we're looking pretty good. We collected 99.2 percent of our Fund 9 Game, Fish and Water Safety Funds. The State Park Funds are at 123.2 percent; it was a good year. Local parks are at 104.6 percent, and our "Other" category is well above, at 187.5 percent.
Seven funds are included in that "Other" category, and all of them are ‑‑ all of them collected more than the estimate. Two of the larger contributors in that category include the Artificial Reef Fund, collecting almost $2.4 million, or 335 percent above the estimate, and the Lifetime License Endowment Fund, which collected about $960,000, or 185 percent above the estimate. I would like to mention that the amounts on this side ‑‑ on this slide ‑‑ excuse me ‑‑ exclude our federal receivables, which are basically reimbursements of expense.
In reviewing our Fiscal Year 2003 budget versus expense, you can see that we have $26.2 million, or 9 percent of the budget, remaining as of October 31, 2003. Salaries ended up with 1.2 percent of the budget remaining. And I'll drop down to the benefits category and mention that that one also tracks fairly close to the salaries, as we would expect.
Operating and equipment as of the 31st indicates that 12.7 percent of the budget remains. I reviewed this category a little bit closer yesterday and have learned that we have just recently made some adjustments that will take this category down to about 6 percent, which ‑‑ or $3.7 million of the budget remaining, which would be more in line with what I would expect.
Grants indicate 8.2 percent of the budget remaining; some of those funds are federal and will be carried forward. Capital projects, with 31.9 percent of the budget remaining, is as expected; these projects carry over multiple fiscal years, and we expect to carry forward funds in this category actually to help us in Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005. The bottom-line balance will continue to decrease over the next few months as we continue to pay the Fiscal Year 2003 bills.
The amounts on this slide represent actual cash in the state treasury as of August 31, 2003 and September 1 of 2002. Since the Comptroller considers available appropriations on a cash basis, these balances are of interest to the state. When comparing our end-of-fiscal-year cash balances for Fiscal Year 2003 to our beginning-of-the-year balances, you can see that the bottom line basically decreased by $1 million.
Fund 9, our Game, Fish and Water Safety Fund, balance decreased by $8.4 million. We really expected that because the legislature directed us to spend down those balances during Fiscal Year 2003. I would expect that balance to climb in this fiscal year as we bring in our revenues, particularly the ones associated with the fee increase.
State parks, as mentioned previously, had a good year with their revenue collections. And you can see that effect here, with the increase of $5.7 in the State Park Fund. The Local Park Fund maintains a sizeable balance because we allow five years for those project funds to be spent. This fund varied slightly, with a $200,000 decrease. The "Other" funds category also shows an increase in the overall fund balances. And those track with the "Other" funds I discussed earlier.
So that is it for the Fiscal Year 2003 activity. I'd like to just give you a status on the 2004 revenue and budget.
Our ‑‑ for the first month of the fiscal year, state park revenue is comparable to last year's collections. The revenues are slightly down, by 46,000, and this is really attributed to the dates for Labor Day weekend. Last year, September 1 was on a Sunday. And this year, September 1 was on a Monday. So we lost a day of that Labor Day weekend revenue.
Our boat revenues as of October 31 are up by 26 percent compared to last year at this same time. Registration of over $1.6 million is showing a 21 percent increase from the previous year. Titling of over $600,000 represents a 32 percent increase from the previous year. And the boat sales tax, at close to $300,000, represents a 45 percent increase from the previous year.
So overall, we're doing well. I want to remind you that 15 percent of the boat registration and titling revenue will be transferred to State Parks' Fund 64 per legislation. And so that amount right now would be at about $340,000 to be transferred.
MR. HOLT: Excuse me. Are those up because fees are up, also? If I remember ‑‑
MS. FIELDS: Yes. We did have some boat fee increases.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MR. FITZSIMONS: But the actual number of registrations is up, also?
MS. FIELDS: Yes, sir.
MR. FITZSIMONS: So that's a good economic indicator.
MR. HOLT: I was going to say. So the fees are up, and registration is up?
MS. FIELDS: And ‑‑
MR. MONTGOMERY: Do you think there's an increase because we made it easier to get them by going to the county courthouse?
MS. FIELDS: That I'm not sure of, Commissioner.
MS. FIELDS: I'll move on then to the license sales revenue. This slide just makes me smile. I've got to tell you guys.
MS. FIELDS: I like this one and the next one.
MR. FITZSIMONS: We can tell. Mark Watson will brag about that success.
MS. FIELDS: As of October 31, we're up $8.8 million, or 22.1 percent, in our license sales. Combo revenue is up 22 percent, hunting revenue is up 36 percent, and fishing is up 25 percent, and other licenses are up 13 percent when compared to the previous year.
MR. ANGELO: The next slide is the one that's really good.
MS. FIELDS: Yes. The next one is ‑‑ the next one will track along with these revenues here, and that's the licenses sold. And we're up 4.4 percent overall. And we had originally anticipated a 4 percent decline in sales due to the fee increase. So we're doing well so far, knock on wood.
Let's see. The ‑‑ I think the hunting season is definitely helping us out. As you can see, the hunting is up 10.2 percent. Fishing license sales are up 3.6 percent. And the combo sales have pretty much leveled off, with just a very slight decline, at .2 percent.
MR. HOLT: Did those fees go up more on a percentage basis than the others, or ‑‑ I mean why would ‑‑ I wonder why combos would be flat to down. I'm just asking anybody. I don't ‑‑
MR. HOLMES: — over time. And that section of sales has just sort of plateaued it looks like.
MR. FITZSIMONS: We've sort of sold all ‑‑ everybody that's going to buy a combo ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Has bought their combo?
MR. HOLMES: Has bought it. That's in spite of the increase.
MR. HOLT: Yes.
MR. HOLMES: A 20 percent increase.
MS. FIELDS: Okay.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Pick a wet year. Always do it in a wet year.
MR. HOLT: There you go.
MR. HOLT: You give them ‑‑ price elasticity is what you give them.
MS. FIELDS: Okay. We are still early in the fiscal year, but I did want to give you a high-level recap of where we stand as far as our Fiscal Year 2004 budget versus expense.
Our original budget was approved by the Commission at $289.1 million. We made some budget adjustments, which I'll discuss with you in just a minute, that took our budget to $289.3 million. After considering our expenditures and encumbrances, we had 92.2 percent of the budget remaining, and this falls in line with the percent of the fiscal year elapsed of 8 percent.
As mentioned, the recap here is at a high level in totals only. Earlier this week, you should have received some monthly financial reports that detail the budget totals by strategy, by division and by object of expense. You will receive this information monthly, and I encourage you to contact me if you have questions regarding that information. And, also, if you'd like more detailed information on some of that, we'd be happy to provide it to you.
In August, you approved our budget policy, and I indicated that I would provide a summary of all the adjustments for you during each Commission meeting. The budget adjustments that were made during the month of September are as follows.
Our construction unexpended balance to be carried forward into 2004 was estimated at about $47 million. We made several adjustments to that category which basically net to a decrease in that unexpended balance of $301,000. We received a new federal grant for the World Birding Center in the amount of $496,750, and we also made a minor adjustment to the Varner Hogg Trust Fund of $4,000. So that takes you to the total of, roughly, $200,000 of adjustments.
In August, when the budget was adopted, there were a few riders that ‑‑ we didn't know what the exact impact would be, and we provided estimates. And at this point, I do have some actual numbers that I can share with you here.
Our payments to the State Office of Risk Management for workers' compensation was adjusted up by approximately $45,000. The rider on management-to-staff ratios was estimated in the budget at $703,000, but, thanks to the assistance from state parks in improving our ratios there, we were actually excluded from this appropriation reduction, so the actual impact to us was zero. Our estimates on retirement incentive were fairly close, but we actually ended up committing approximately $250,000 less than our budget estimate.
So the bottom line is that our actual impacts are at this point about $846,000 less than we had estimated. We are still waiting on the impact of a few additional provisions related to state-owned and leased space, office space and the sale of real property and surplus property. So I'll continue to update you on these issues as they are resolved by the leadership and oversight offices.
A quick recap on the Business Improvement Plan. We're doing on that, as well, and making progress. There's 94 items in the plan, of which 69 of them are complete. So that's 73 percent. We've completed eight items since I last reported on the status of this plan, and there are six outstanding items that are about over 90 percent complete. So we're continuing to make headway there.
And that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions?
MR. ANGELO: Any questions, comments or discussion?
MR. ANGELO: Well, Mary, thank you, very much for an excellent presentation. We appreciate all the monthly ‑‑ those monthly statements are great, too, I think, for everybody to keep up with what's going on. Thank you.
We're going to change the order of business here to allow the presenter to make a previous commitment and move to Item Number 7, the Parks and Wildlife Department's human resource policies update from Mr. Al Bingham.
MR. BINGHAM: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Al Bingham; I'm the Director of the Human Resources Division.
This summer, the HR staff completed a top-to-bottom review and revision of the HR Personnel Policy Manual. And today, I'd like to give you an overview of that process and familiarize you with some of the key elements in the policy changes.
Our objectives with this project were to update the policy information and make sure that the information reflected the current management thought. We wanted to, where possible, enhance management flexibility. We wanted to improve user-friendliness and simplify things where we could, again, in line with Department initiatives to keep things simple.
And of course, we wanted to pass the Texas Commission on Human Rights Certification. TCHR is charged with certifying certain state agency policies.
In this process, we benchmarked some best practices ‑‑ personnel practices with other agencies' ‑‑ large agencies' ‑‑ natural resource agencies'. Again, the Texas Commission on Human Rights ‑‑ they played a large part. We went back and forth with our general counsel and our deputy executive director last fall in making sure that the information contained in several of our policies met TCHR muster.
We also had a series of meetings, luncheon meetings, with the senior management. We actively sought their input and buy-in to some of the changes that were being contemplated. We incorporated the feedback in our revisions and, of course, coordinated the approval through Mr. Cook.
We had about 20 policies. Again, this was a top-to-bottom review. And rather than waiting until all the changes were made, we released the policies in two phases. Of course, the Phase 1 release contained what we considered the more important day-to-day operational policies, including at-will, EEO, sexual harassment, our hiring practices policies, our performance management policies, employee discipline, complaints, work place accommodations, separations and reductions in force.
The policies with the asterisks ‑‑ those are the ones that had to be certified by the Texas Commission on Human Rights. And then the other, Phase 2, policies were released later in the summer. All policies were complete and in place by September 1 of this year.
During the summer, we, again, sought input. We were interested in how the employees were perceiving the policies. I just want to touch in a little bit more detail on four of these policies that we got the most, I guess, feedback and comments on: At-will, the disciplinary process, complaints and reductions in force.
The at-will policy ‑‑ as you may know, Texas is an at-will state, and state government is our ‑‑ they're at-will employers. And the purpose of this policy is ‑‑ this was a new policy, but we just wanted to reaffirm the employment relationship that exists between the Department and its employees.
Some of the major elements ‑‑ again, employees basically serve at the will of the Department. We take care of our employees, but, again, none of the employees should have expectations of retained employment for any specified length of time; we don't have contracts, and no oral or written information or statements can alter that at-will employment status.
The impact is that we've eliminated references to probationary periods for employees. Terms such as, "Probation," or, "Probationary," are removed from our policies. You'll see and I'll talk about in just a moment more on the at-will principle manifesting itself more in the administration of our disciplinary and complaints policies.
We will have more limited appeals processes. And that's not to say that we won't give employees due process. We'll make sure that HR and our legal folks do prudent reviews on all personnel decisions, but it will be more limited than what has occurred in the past.
Supervisors still must, again, establish and communicate performance standards, must counsel employees, document performance behavior and take appropriate disciplinary actions. Again, there's no getting around that.
The next policy was our disciplinary process policy, and, again, this represented some ‑‑ I won't say radical changes, but ‑‑ significant changes from the way things were happening in the past. In the old policies, we had what was called two levels of coaching; there was formal coaching and informal coaching. And we, again, deleted that, and, basically, now, we just do counseling. And that could be either verbal or written counseling.
We had two levels of reprimand. Again, we deleted that first level of reprimand. And now there's just one level of reprimand. And our thought was also to push the authority ‑‑ to take that action down to the supervisory level. In the past, again, it was a very bureaucratic process, and it took an awful lot of staff time and paperwork just to take a reprimand action. So, again, we're trying to streamline this whole process.
In line with the at-will concept, we've deleted that conditional employment, again. If an employee is not performing, then we expect to take the appropriate action.
We had this thing called decision making leave, where we actually gave someone a paid day off to make a decision about whether or not they were going to turn their behavior and performance around. And so we deleted that. And we made some changes in the approval process as to who can approve certain disciplinary actions. And, again, the idea was to put that at the division level, with the deputy directors being the final decision authorities.
Hopefully, the impact is more flexibility for managers to deal with poor performance: Easier to administer, less bureaucratic and, again, improve the timeliness of actions.
The complaints policy. Again, we want to resolve employee problems or issues in a timely manner. Here, the major elements are complaints dealing with discrimination, sexual harassment and the pocket-book issues, adverse actions, terminations and demotions. Those items are being received and processed and investigated by Human Resources.
In the past, these types of issues were handled by the divisions and ‑‑ with HR as an information copy. But now, HR is taking a more active role in those complaints. The final decision will be by the appropriate deputy director. And when it comes to these types of actions, no appeal hearings ‑‑ no dismissal appeal hearings in cases of terminations.
Again, in the past, we had these termination appeal hearings that took a lot of time and a lot of discomfort for a lot of folks. And, again, we've determined that that wasn't a good practice for us.
Complaints regarding ‑‑ we call it ‑‑ terms and conditions of employment: Wages, hours and working conditions. Those will be handled within the division. In the past, employees when ‑‑ if an employee did not like the result of an action, they had a right to request a management review. In the new guidelines, the employees cannot request a management review; that's not to say that the appropriate director or deputy cannot request a review of an action.
Criminal violations or whistle-blower-type complaints. Those are ‑‑ will be handled by the internal affairs folks.
Hopefully, these changes will allow employees to know clearly where to go to file a complaint. HR will, again, investigate fair employment law issues: Discrimination, sexual harassment, et cetera. And, again, we wanted to provide clear direction to employees about how to deal with allegations of criminal behavior.
Reductions-in-force. This was one of those this summer that we thought was going to be more of a player. And we were ‑‑ I won't say we were rushing to get it on the table, but there were some significant changes in this area, as well.
In the past when we had a RIF situation, it was ‑‑ basically people were let go based on their tenure, and no consideration given to basically performance or other skills or competencies needed to perform the job.
Here, our directions are when functions ‑‑ the functions and positions will be prioritized based on the objective and job-related criteria. And if not all of a specific type of position was being eliminated, then employees would be considered based on the skills that the Department needed, their documented performance, veteran status, seniority or other objective criteria.
In the old policy, strictly ‑‑ employees were supposed to be given 60 days notice. And, again, based on what happened this summer, we know that we might not have an idea of what our budget situation is, so we took that requirement out and we said that affected employees would be notified with as much advance notice as feasible, as possible.
And, again, the managers must prioritize their functions and positions based on, again, their core mission responsibilities, other legislative mandates or instructions given by the Commission. HR will review the criteria to make sure that they are consistently applied across the board.
We crisscrossed across the state this past summer. We had policy orientation sessions in several regions to orient our managers and employees. We've also advertised changes in our weekly electronic communications. The plans are to have a policy corner in our monthly "Tracks and Trails" publication. And in this ‑‑ in the November pay checks, we had a bulletin notifying employees again of the changes and where to go to find the changes.
I'm available for questions.
MR. ANGELO: Al, I think you've done a terrific job on that. I mean that's ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Especially in such a short period of time.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ an improvement. And it looks really great.
MR. BINGHAM: Thank you.
MR. HOLT: How have the employees reacted to it overall, I mean, if you went across the state?
MR. BINGHAM: Overall, we had some concerns with some areas, especially when we ‑‑ the at-will policy. We reassured the folks that there would be no wholesale efforts to just rough-ride someone out, you know, and, again, that there will be appropriate levels of review, again, by HR and legal as needed.
And that ‑‑ the big thing was that supervisors still had responsibilities, we still expected the supervisors to counsel the employees to provide opportunities to turn around behavior and performance and do all those things that good supervisors are supposed to do.
MR. COOK: Commissioner Holt, I would like to add to that, because it's an important question. I ‑‑ in the last month, I've made about nine visits across the state out of Austin here meeting with employees. All employees are invited, and all employees are invited to ask any question and express any concern that they have.
And this business about at-will and reductions in force, of course, always impacts employees, concerns employees and concerns us. And we try to handle it very responsibly and with all respect, too.
But the questions that were asked were as much like or ‑‑ the comments expressed were as much like, This will help us get this job done. Employees ‑‑ we are being very, very open with employees about our responsibilities and our budget. It's important to me that they understand the job and they know what the expectations are. And overall, we've got an incredible ‑‑ as I believe all of you know, we have an incredible group of employees, but we need good employees in every single position.
We need employees who excel and do a great job in every single position. And, you know, as is pointed out in these meetings to me, you know, it's not the boss when you've got an employee that's not pulling his weight. When you've got an employee that's not willing to get out on the deep end of the seine occasionally, it's not the boss who knows about it first; it's the other employees out there who have to pull that extra weight.
MR. HOLT: That's right.
MR. COOK: And they appreciate this. I think we all want to handle it reasonably, but it was ‑‑ it's something that needed to be done. And Mr. Al Bingham has done us a great job and ‑‑ along with Ann Bright, our General Counsel, and every one of the division directors and the deputy directors in looking at these changes and making sure that they're reasonable, making sure that they're fair and making sure that they're communicated where the folks understand them.
MR. ANGELO: When I said I thought it was an excellent job, I meant not only from the management's perspective but, also, from the employees', because I think it really makes it clear to everyone where they stand. And it's a much clearer process than what you had previously. So I think it's a big improvement overall from everybody's perspective.
MR. HENRY: I would agree with that assessment. But I wanted ‑‑ just for clarification purposes, because it did come up this past summer, am I correct in assuming ‑‑
And, Ann, I'd like your take on this, as well.
‑‑ that this is an area that the Commission is either precluded or excluded from participation in, has no authority or ‑‑ I hate to ‑‑ I don't want to say, interest in. But this is not a part of our doing, and we owe nothing to employees here, and they shouldn't even contact us? And we aren't ‑‑ we can say, "I have nothing to do with this," and be clean? Would you just clarify that, please?
MS. BRIGHT: I think when you're talking about individual employment actions, you know, as you know, the Commission's role is to provide oversight and guidance and policy direction for the Agency. A lot of these decisions, particularly the reductions-in-force, were considered carefully. There was ‑‑ there were many hours spent and lots of analysis that went into every single person on that list, and we wanted to make sure that we were absolutely doing the right thing.
So the good news for you is that since you're not involved in those ‑‑ in analyzing the individuals on the list, that in a way sort of immunizes you so that while, you know, the Commission is ultimately responsible and, obviously, if we did something wrong, we would be talking to you about a law suit, but ‑‑ I think that most people would consider that ‑‑
MR. HENRY: I don't want you talking to me about a law suit.
MR. FITZSIMONS: That's the point. Right?
MS. BRIGHT: I don't want to talk to you about a law suit, either. I can also assure you that's not my favorite topic of discussion with you, either.
But, again, I think, in most instances, the day-to-day operations usually do not involve or ‑‑ the oversight does not involve making or analyzing individual employment decisions. Does that answer your question in any way?
MR. HENRY: Yes and no ‑‑
MS. BRIGHT: Okay.
MR. HENRY: ‑‑ I'd say.
MS. BRIGHT: There's ‑‑
MR. HENRY: I was contacted by an individual, and I just said simply, "I had absolutely nothing to do with that"
MR. COOK: You're absolutely correct.
MR. HENRY: ‑‑ you know. Or I ‑‑ so I can say, Leave me alone about that?
MR. HENRY: But am I on sound ground when I do that? Does the law have any requirement for me to do otherwise?
MS. BRIGHT: The law in terms of delineation of duties between the Commission and staff is pretty vague, but I think your response is absolutely appropriate. So I don't think ‑‑ I think that that is absolutely appropriate.
MR. HENRY: I get a little concerned when lawyers lose their voice when it comes to ‑‑
MS. BRIGHT: I'm sorry.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Or clear their throats.
MR. HENRY: Yes. Clear your throat, Ann.
MS. BRIGHT: I left my water over there. So ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Henry, that's two stars you've gotten this morning already.
MR. HOLT: Well, Ann, I think that maybe so I can just interpret it ‑‑ so if you get that kind of call, the key then is to refer it back to ‑‑
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. And ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: And that's pretty well true across the board, whether it's a complaint by ‑‑
MR. HOLT: Yes. I was thinking of any person that should ‑‑
MR. COOK: And, you know ‑‑ and we respect that, also. I mean you're going to run into folks occasionally who, out of concern, express that concern to you. And to ‑‑ absolutely reassure them to feel welcome to pass that on to me, to refer that right on to Ann or Al, you know, to someone who may be out of their chain of command. But that gives them an opportunity for ‑‑ to be reassured that they'll get full review and consideration.
MS. BRIGHT: And if somebody is concerned, that's one thing we really do want to know about, too. I mean, you know, we're not perfect. And if we've missed something, we really do want the opportunity to look at that.
MR. HOLT: Thank you.
MR. ANGELO: Anything further?
MR. ANGELO: If not, thank you, Ann.
MS. BRIGHT: Okay.
MR. ANGELO: And thank you, Al.
MR. BINGHAM: Thank you.
MR. ANGELO: Good job.
Now we'll go back to Item Number 6: Hunting and Fishing License Review.
And, Mary Fields and Gene McCarty?
MR. McCARTY: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Gene McCarty; I'm Chief of Staff for the Agency. With me today is Mary Fields; she's the Chief Financial Officer. The item before you is an update of license issues.
Legislation passed by the 78th Legislature made several changes in our license structure. These include the creation of the freshwater fishing stamp, the elimination of the muzzle-loader stamp, the elimination of the freshwater trout stamp, and a request to evaluate issuance of a year-to-date fishing license. That's a license that would be valid for one year from the date of purchase.
These changes created a number of questions for us, such as, "How do we incorporate the freshwater stamp into our license structure, Do we need any new licenses ‑‑ year-to-date licenses," et cetera, "What would be the cost of any of these new licenses," and, "Can we incorporate these licenses into our point of sale system?"
To address these questions, we formed a work group with member representation from most divisions of the Agency. The team was charged with reviewing issues associated with these questions and keeping in mind four guiding principles: Maximize revenue, maximize customer convenience, minimize customer confusion and minimize impacts on point-of-sale.
Let's start with the super combo. By definition, the super combo is intended to be a one-stop-shopping license, that is: That it's an all-inclusive license. To continue with the theme, we believe that we should incorporate the freshwater stamp into the super combo.
There was quite a bit of discussion about creating a new super combo, such as a freshwater super combo, a saltwater super combo. It kind of defeats the purpose, and we believe that, you know, the bottom line is that we should have only one all-inclusive super combo.
Next we looked at the combo license. In a review of this license, we found that most of the purchasers of the current combo license are deer hunters who fish in freshwater. We believe that there is a potential for significant revenue loss if this license were completely eliminated or if it was issued with ‑‑ only issued with both fishing licenses or ‑‑ both fishing stamps, i. e., both the saltwater stamp and the freshwater stamp, since most of the individuals currently buying them only fish in freshwater.
So we would recommend that we continue the combo license with a stamp but have it with three options: A freshwater stamp, a saltwater stamp or an all-water license. In addition, just to maximize convenience for the customer, we would also recommend that if you were to buy a combo with the freshwater stamp ‑‑ basically, the freshwater combo option ‑‑ and you came back later and wanted to fish in saltwater, you go ahead and be able to purchase the saltwater or the other endorsement just to add onto it.
Next we looked at the basic fishing license. To minimize customer confusion, we recommend that we package the fishing license with the stamps. We have a concern out there that if we sell a license ‑‑ a fishing license without a stamp, you basically have got somebody who came in, attempted to become a legal participant but only bought a license, the fishing license, and the fishing license doesn't allow you to fish.
So we would like you to ‑‑ we would like to make sure that an individual fishes ‑‑ or purchases a license that allows the individual to participate. So we want to package all of our licenses with a stamp.
So we would propose that we have a freshwater fishing license, which would be the license and the freshwater stamp, a saltwater fishing license or an all-water fishing license. Again, we would also provide the option that an individual could come back and buy one or the other endorsements at a later date if they so desired.
We have quite a bit of constituent concern about our temporary license system as it exists right now. And to address these concerns, we're evaluating the potential of discontinuing the three-day resident temporary, the five-day non-resident temporary and the 14-day resident temporary and creating a single one-day license, which would be the license inclusive of the stamp, with the option to buy additional consecutive days. The additional days would not require the purchase of additional stamps as long as they're purchased consecutively.
We also are looking at the potential of creating a new license that would basically be a summer fishing license. In looking at the data, we find that only about 3 percent of our annual fishing licenses are sold during the months of July and August, but about 61 percent of the resident 14-day temporary licenses are sold during that time.
And this is some ‑‑ this particular period of time is what is generating a great deal of the concerns about a year-to-date license. This license alternative ‑‑ could be an alternative to the 14-day. And this license and/or the one-day license could be an alternative to the year-to-date.
Finally, the legislature asked us to evaluate a year-to-date license. We've got some concerns based on the history. We did have a year-to-date license from 1977 ‑‑ 1973 to 1977. We had some ‑‑ during that period of time, we had a ‑‑ the first year, we had a little over a 4 percent drop in license sales. The following three years, we had about ‑‑ an average of a little over 1 percent per year ‑‑ average of ‑‑ during those times. So we have some concerns about what a year-to-date license might do to license sales.
We also have some concerns about what a year-to-date license might do in terms of programming the point of sale system and/or impacts on memory, et cetera. So we're still looking at that, and we've still got some work to do with the legislature.
At this point, I think Mary wants to talk a little bit about financial issues.
MS. FIELDS: Thank you, Gene.
For Finance, we were asked to evaluate some of these questions in relation to the license issues that Gene has laid out. What is the potential revenue impact? Well, at a bare minimum, the potential revenue impact related to the freshwater fishing stamp is going to be estimated at about $4.3 million. And depending on the application of the stamp and related discounts to that stamp, revenues could range up to $5.9 million.
The temporary one-day licenses, we believe, could generate more revenue if people purchased additional days beyond the three-day, five-day, or the 14-day. So we actually were intending to price that license to where it would be cost-neutral, but if they ‑‑ to the terms that we currently have. But if they chose to purchase additional days, we, of course, would receive additional revenue on that.
The potential impact or ‑‑ what's the potential impact to our point-of-sale license system? We're really still working through that. We have contacted MCI about possible catalog changes, and we're continuing to work with them. After we determine more specific direction on this potential license structure, I think we'll be able to work with them and obtain a firm bid on what it will cost to update the license system.
Is there a cost benefit to the license structure change? Well, really, you know, the answer's going to lie between the answers to the first two questions. You know, if we evaluate the additional revenue and compare it to the firm bid of what it's going to cost to update the system, I think we'll get our answer.
And finally, does customer convenience outweigh the cost? I mean, of course, our objective, as Gene mentioned, is to minimize the customer confusion related to these stamps and the new freshwater fishing stamp, and we want to offer viable temporary licenses that will meet the customers' needs. We'll have to continue to evaluate the overall costs that are there to implement the changes, and we'll consider customer convenience as we proceed.
And that's all I had on the finance portion of it.
And I don't know, Gene, if you want to add anything.
MR. McCARTY: Well, in ‑‑ just in summary, Where do we go from here with this? Well, we need to do additional work, working with MCI, and do some additional cost analyses to finalize and develop these proposals. We need to get out and discuss these with the constituency, discuss these with our advisory committees and other constituent groups. We need to discuss these options with the legislative leadership that were interested in seeing these changes made.
Then we'd come back and present a final proposal to the Commission in January, which would then give ‑‑ get your permission to send it out to public comment, get the public comment and, hopefully, get an adoption in April. So that's kind of the time frame that we're on.
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Fitzsimons?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Gene, is there a causal connection between that drop-off in sales and the year-to-date that you did from '73 to '77?
MR. McCARTY: There appears to be.
MR. FITZSIMONS: What part of that ‑‑
MR. McCARTY: Because ‑‑
MR. FITZSIMONS: I'm lost.
MR. McCARTY: Licenses were on the increase up until 1973, and they were on the decrease from 1973 to 1977. In 1978, when we went back to it, it went back up until we began to increase fees. And ‑‑
MR. COOK: It ended up being ‑‑
Gene, correct me if I'm wrong.
‑‑ about a 10 or 11 percent overall decline in that period of time?
MR. McCARTY: It was 4 percent in the first year and an average of 1 percent per year after that. So it ended up being close to 8 percent.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Boy, that's significant.
MR. COOK: That's huge.
MR. FITZSIMONS: On the non-resident, if I'm ‑‑ is that hunting and fishing both that you're talking about going to a day-to-day non-resident, or just ‑‑
MR. McCARTY: Yes, both. Both resident and non-resident.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I don't know about the hunting, but I know, in fishing in other states, that's usually the way they do it. They ask you how many days.
MR. McCARTY: That's the way most of our adjoining states ‑‑ New Mexico and Colorado ‑‑ they're ‑‑ that's the way they're doing their, you know ‑‑ you take it one day at a time and buy them consecutive days ‑‑
MR. COOK: That makes sense. People usually buy more than they need, too, which is good.
MR. ANGELO: Phil?
MR. MONTGOMERY: I think the question was, this is just fishing we're talking about? The one-day fishing ‑‑
MR. McCARTY: Oh, yes. This is only fishing, yes. I'm sorry. Not hunting.
MR. MONTGOMERY: Okay. It's just fishing.
MR. McCARTY: Yes, this is just fishing.
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Rising?
DR. RISING: Do we ‑‑ you were talking about other states. Do we have some idea about their historical trends when they've tried the year-to-date licenses?
MR. McCARTY: I'm not sure that we know that any ‑‑ we don't have that data, no.
DR. RISING: You don't have anything to ‑‑
MR. McCARTY: No. We haven't looked at what their trends were.
MR. ANGELO: Kansas does a year-to-date hunting license and probably does it for fishing, also.
MR. McCARTY: We would ‑‑ if we did it year-to-date at this point, it would only be for fishing.
MR. ANGELO: I think it would be confusing as all get-out.
MR. FITZSIMONS: I do, too.
MR. COOK: I think we all agree, but the ‑‑ Mr. McCarty and we all are having to deal with a very, very specific request from some folks downtown, and we're trying to find a way. We're trying to figure out if there is some kind of way we can satisfy that request, and we may or may not find that way.
MR. ANGELO: That July/August alternative might be interesting, but I'd be concerned also that that might end up costing some overall revenue ‑‑
MR. McCARTY: And we agree.
MR. ANGELO: ‑‑ if people just decided to buy that cheaper license.
MR. McCARTY: It might cost us ‑‑ that one might cost us revenue, but I suspect that it would be less than the alternative.
MR. ANGELO: Oh, yes. And it would be a lot easier to handle.
MR. COOK: Like Gene said, we're in this discussion phase and we wanted to get you all involved early. I know you've already had some thoughts about it, and we've got a lot of work to do with our constituents. We've got a great product, you know, for what you get when you walk up that counter and buy any of these products.
We've got a great product, and we want to keep it that way and encourage that. So, you know, without giving up anything, you know, any thoughts and suggestions you've got along those lines that will help us ‑‑ and it is at ‑‑ we are in discussion. We've had some talk with outside folks about it. And word's beginning to get around. So ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: Mr. Holt?
MR. HOLT: Mary, you said that the one-day license would be designed to be revenue-neutral. And have you applied any math to that as to how you would price it to be revenue-neutral? I presume it's against the three-day or up to the 14-day.
MS. FIELDS: That's correct. And, I believe, on the one that ‑‑ the first day would be ‑‑ what was it, $8?
MR. McCARTY: What you would end up doing is ‑‑ to be revenue-neutral for the resident, you would ‑‑ for a freshwater, it would be ‑‑ your first day would be $13. That would include your stamp and your day. And every day after that would be $2 a day. That brings it out to be basically neutral at the three-day level for those that are buying the three-day ‑‑ were buying the three-day.
MR. ANGELO: Commissioner Ramos?
MR. RAMOS: Gene, what's the rationale of not including June as part of your summer license? It seems to me that people are on vacation and the youth of the state are outdoors or should be outdoors.
MR. McCARTY: When you include June, you have a ‑‑ that's when you get into that negative impact on revenues, because we do have a lot of annual license sales during the month of June.
MR. RAMOS: So it's revenue driven?
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir.
MR. RAMOS: And it's ‑‑
MR. ANGELO: Because right now, there's very few people buying them in July and August.
MR. McCARTY: It's ‑‑ yes. Only 3 percent are buying annual licenses. Most of the people that are buying during that period of time are buying the 14-day ‑‑
MR. HOLT: The 14-day.
MR. McCARTY: ‑‑ or the temporary. If you back it up and do June, July and August, that percentage is a lot higher of who are actually buying an annual license or buying the regular resident fishing license.
MR. FITZSIMONS: That was the 61 percent you showed in your slide?
MR. McCARTY: Sixty-one percent of the 14-day temporaries are purchased during that period of time.
MR. HOLT: During that period of time?
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir.
MR. ANGELO: Any other discussion on that?
MR. ANGELO: If not, thank you. And we'll continue to keep an open mind on this.
MR. McCARTY: Just let me know your thoughts.
MR. ANGELO: While ‑‑ we were speaking of the legislature. I think one of our most staunch supporters in the legislative process is with us, if he hasn't left, and that's Representative Edmund Kuempel.
Where is he?
MR. HOLT: There he is.
MR. KUEMPEL: I'm watching this from behind.
MR. ANGELO: Keeping an eye on us?
MR. KUEMPEL: You can get more done back here.
MR. ANGELO: That may be.
MR. FITZSIMONS: It's where the donuts are.
MR. ANGELO: The next item is Number 8, the State Park Annual Pass. And Walt Dabney will give this presentation.
MR. DABNEY: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, the State Park Director. I'm here to talk to you today about a State Park Annual Pass. We currently have an annual pass that's called the Texas Conservation Passport.
We are proposing to move away from the conservation passport and come up with something that the public can better understand, something as dramatic as a State Park Annual Pass, instead of a Texas Conservation Passport, which, in talking to people, they didn't have a clue as to what that actually meant unless they were looking at you over the counter.
That current pass has been frustrating to park visitors. One of the primary reasons is it's a decal. It's a car sticker. So you've got to decide what car you're always going to go to the state park in. And if you have two of them, then you've got to buy another one. And if you sell it, then you go through other hassles.
Another problem with it is that as you buy an annual pass and you go to most state parks, you're fine to come in for the day ‑‑ it's an entry pass ‑‑ unless you show up at a historic site like the Magoffin Home where, because we were trying to generate revenues and a lot of other things in the past, she said, "Well, no, sir; that's different; We have a tour fee here," which absolutely drove people nuts. I mean it was frustrating them.
So we're proposing to move away from that, and we intend to do that this January. We've had a working group that ‑‑ with field representatives and people from outside in the industry who have, pro bono, volunteered to help us with this project.
And we've come up with a great new product that will in fact be a wallet card. And that wallet card you will carry with you. So if you're somewhere in west Texas and you go rent a car and want to go to Magoffin's or somewhere like that and your sticker's back in the garage, you're not hassling with that kind of thing.
So we've completely restyled it. It will look like the picture in front of you, or a card similar to this. And from a marketing standpoint ‑‑ I handed you the Texas State Parks Guide ‑‑ we're going to use that same photograph. Each year as we redo the guide, that will be the same photograph as is on the annual pass card, which we think just adds to the marketing value of it, as well.
There's going to be two membership options. And in my former years in the National Parks Service, we didn't do that. You bought a Golden Eagle, and that entitled you and whoever was with you in your car to go into any site on the day to cover the day use part of that. Camping is additional, but that lets you in for the whole year as often as you want to go.
Here in Texas, one of the things that we've ‑‑ that has become clear to us is many people need two cards because the wife may go up in the morning to some park and get a camp site and the husband and some of the kids after school, or vice-versa, are going to come up in a different car later on. And they want a second card.
Each card allows whoever's with you in your car to come in. I mean that's just how it is. So if it's a non-commercial vehicle and it's your family van and then you're coming in the Volkswagen later on, you might want to buy two of these, and we'll sell them to you ‑‑ the two ‑‑ in a package of two; otherwise, it will be a $60 annual pass for a family. It's currently $50, and a second decal is $15. So we're moving, actually, up $10 on each of those over previous years or the previous amount.
We're really looking at doing a major marketing campaign on this with the notion that when you get this pass, it's a heck of a good deal. You can come to any state park as often as you want for 365 days from the time you bought that pass. And so if you're in a town that has a park nearby, every time somebody comes to visit you, you can load them up and take them out there and go picnicking or whatever you want.
The other thing we're going to really market is that when you buy this annual pass, you're directly helping the state park system because those revenues come back to the parks.
There are some member benefits. They're going to be easier to use. We're going to honor them at all sites, and there are some concerns about with some of our people, for example, at the Nimitz. Right now, it's per person when you walk into Nimitz. When you walk into Nimitz in the future and say, "This is my party," we're going to say, "That's great; come on in." We're not going to hassle you about that.
Our intent is that we sell a whole lot more of these annual passes. Right now, we sell 49,000 of them a year, and we would like to sell 150- or 200,000 of them a year. And we think that we'll be way ahead if we do that.
We're going to streamline the purchasing. You'll fill this out. And we're going to contract with a company that will make this card and the whole package. And in a week or ten days, you're going to get it in the mail back at your home.
It has a get-away planner. It'll also, again, have a personalized wallet card with an expiration date on the front of it and six discount coupons. It's going to get you a discount in our state park stores, which will do other things. If you get a 10 percent discount, you're going to go buy some more things in those stores. And we're working with the concessioners now to see if they will honor them. And you'll have a customized newsletter.
The ‑‑ when ‑‑ I said, the marketing. If you look in that book there, there's a page here that talks about the annual pass. We're going to put that in places like Texas Monthly and Texas Highways. We've got a marketing budget set aside, and we're going to get very proactive.
It's also going to be incumbent for our employees, especially park managers, who are routinely going to Rotary and chambers of commerce and those kinds of things to talk to the local folks and say, you all ought to each have one of those. And I guess while I'm talking about that, having pulled out my hunting and fishing license out of my pocket ‑‑ which is Fund 9, as all of you know ‑‑ we probably all in this room ought to have both of these in our own pockets here.
MR. DABNEY: Whether we get to hunt or fish much or go to parks, the idea is that it's a great way to support parks. And they're also a tremendous gift. I've known lots of people that give an annual pass to their relatives and so forth. And it really helps.
Anyway, with that, we think we've got a great product coming in January. And we're looking forward to seeing this actually help us with revenues but, also, be a lot better for the visitor who's coming to the parks and wants to use this. We know, as well, that people who have these passes come to parks more, and they also come camping more, which further stimulates revenue.
One of our greatest concerns is that we nickel and dime people with this per-person pricing. The answer that is very simple: Get you an annual pass, and don't worry about that any more. So with that, I'd be glad to answer any questions that you might have.
MR. ANGELO: Does anyone have any questions?
MR. FITZSIMONS: Walt, does the pass ‑‑ I'm just looking at the little ad in here. Does it cover RV fees and campsite fees?
MR. DABNEY: The pass only lets you into the park.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Okay.
MR. DABNEY: It's in essence a day use pass.
MR. FITZSIMONS: Right.
MR. DABNEY: But right now, if you bring an RV in and you don't buy the pass, you're going to pay a daily price per person to be in that RV and then for the camping. Now what you'll be doing is ‑‑ you and whoever's with you in that RV are not paying the daily fee any more. You've already done that. But you'll pay the camping fees.
MR. FITZSIMONS: That's an advantage because, as you and I were talking about this, the RV people don't like the ‑‑
MR. DABNEY: Nickel and dime.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ nickel and dime. They want to ‑‑
MR. DABNEY: They hate it.
MR. FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ pay one price and go.
MR. ANGELO: You won't have to be much of a park user for this to be a bargain.
MR. DABNEY: You know, for $60, if you've got a couple or three kids and go to a movie, you're going to spend most of that with popcorn. And this is good for a year. It's a great deal. We just need to let people know about it.
MR. ANGELO: Any further discussion, comments or questions?
MR. ANGELO: If not, is there any other business to come before the Finance Committee?
MR. ANGELO: There being none, the Finance Committee is adjourned, and I'll make the following announcement. Pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of consideration of Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act regarding real estate matters and advice from General Counsel.
(Whereupon, at 12:23 p.m., this Finance Committee meeting was concluded, and the Commission convened for Executive Session.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks
and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 5, 2003
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 77, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Ben Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731