Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Finance Committee Meeting
April 4, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of April, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Committee Chair
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas,
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, 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
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Good morning. At this time, I will call the meeting to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed at the Office of the Secretary of State in accordance with Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Chairman Holt, at this time will you call the Finance Committee to order.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So I am up? I'd better get that gavel. I may need it. I'm Chairman Holt, the Chairman of the Finance Committee. The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So moved.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Friedkin, seconded by Commissioner Brown. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Committee Item number 1, Land and Water Plan Update. Mr. Cook, will you please make your presentation.
MR. COOK: Very good. Thank you, sir. We have several items to report on this morning. The State Auditor's Office, as you know, completed and released an audit of the State Park Financial Management System. The audit made 48 recommendations. The agency agreed with all but two of those recommendations, and the department is currently preparing an implementation plan and will comply with the recommendations, to the very best of our ability. In short, most of those recommendations — most of those issues, we were aware of them. We are already working on many of those, as you know, and we will complete that audit to your satisfaction.
As agreed on in our recent contract extension, Verizon has designed a web-based hunting and fishing license sales system that we are currently testing in about ten locations here around Austin, and they seem to be working pretty well.
A new version of our state park reservation system has been in development over the last year and is currently being tested here at headquarters and in several parks. When fully implemented, this new reservation system will address several of the recommendations in the State Auditor's report.
Briefly, let me lay out kind of a plan for the FY '08 budget. Obviously, we won't know anything definite about our budget and our funding until the legislative session is over, but we will actually start the process here within the agency in about mid-May, working with the division directors and their division. When the session ends, we will go to work with the numbers that we have and we will have a commission budget workshop in mid-July. We'll be working with you as we go through that process, as we approach that mid-July meeting, and we will present the budget to the commission, for the Commission's final approval at the August commission meeting.
Lastly, I think at each of your places this morning, literally as the media says, hot off the press, is our brand new Texas State Parks Guide, a 112-page color booklet. Approximately 500,000 copies will be arriving early this month, and will be distributed between the state parks, TPWD sites, field offices and TxDOT travel information centers, and local commission distributing offices, and Chambers of Commerce. Look through this. I think you'll see that it's a wonderful document.
We were able to use additional dollars from advertising revenue to mail out the guides, at about $.40 per guide. The legislature will receive a copy of this guide this next week. It's a good document, very popular, very much in demand, and a very good job. We appreciate all of our sponsors there.
I believe that's it, sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Bob. I think we'll move on. We'll have a discussion later. Committee Item number 2, Financial Overview. Ms. Mary Fields, will you please make your presentation?
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I am Mary Fields, CFO, and I am here to provide the financial overview. The focus of the presentation today will be to provide a revenue and budget status for the first half of fiscal year 2007.
We'll start off with the state park receipts. When comparing state park gross receipts through February 28th, at $12.76 million, we're up 9.2 percent or $1.08 million over last year's collections at this same time. In reviewing all of the categories of park receipts, they are all up. Facilities are currently up by 8.3 percent; entrance fees are up by 2.4 percent; concession revenue is up by 27.8 percent; and park pass sales are slightly up at .3 percent. The miscellaneous category is pretty small, but it is also up as well. So, over all, we're doing real well with the revenues in our state parks, and we'll hope to see this trend continue for the last half of the fiscal year.
Our boat revenue as of February 28th is at $6.2 million. This is up by 6.9 percent, or $397,000, compared to last year at this same time. Again, here, the boat registration revenue is up by 8.8 percent; revenue for titles issued is down a little bit, by 3.8 percent; and revenue for sales tax is up by 17.4 percent. We do continue to transfer that 15 percent of registration and titling revenue to Fund 64, which amounts to about $802,000, based on the revenue since February.
More good news here with our license sales revenue. This is also up as of the end of February. It's $68.8 million. We are up $1.5 million in revenues, or 2.3 percent. All the categories of revenue are higher than the previous year, and you can still see the same trends that we discussed with the non-resident versus the resident revenues for hunting and fishing. In looking at those categories, the combo revenue is up 2.3 percent; non-resident fishing is up by 11.2 percent; resident fishing is up 1.1; non-resident hunting is up 4.6 percent; and resident hunting is up by 0.7 percent; and other revenue is also slightly up.
The sales, in reviewing the number of licences sold here, it tracks pretty closely with the revenue. We're up 1.5 percent, or at 2.06 million, excuse me. We're up 1.5 percent there. And here, the total hunting for both of the categories is up .04 percent; combo sales are, let's see, I think I might have skipped the fishing one — combo sales are up 1.6 percent, and the fishing is up 1.3 percent overall. Sorry about that; I got lost in all those percentages.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: They're all up, Mary. That's a good thing.
MS. FIELDS: Yes, they're all up; that's the good news here, so excuse me for that.
When comparing our 2007 revenue collections as of February 28th to the annual revenue estimates, we're continuing to do well, and that's no surprise, you know, after we've just discussed the growth in all of our major revenue sources.
With 50 percent of the year elapsed, we've collected 59.9 percent of our Fund 9, Game, Fish and Water Safety Funds; 50.9 percent of state park funds; local park fund is at 62.6 percent; and in the other category, which is several funds rolled together, is at 83.1 percent.
Our overall budget has increased by $18.4 million since November 30th, when we last reported. That's taking our budget to $329.3 million. Budget adjustments made during the months of December, January, and February are summarized on the slide. The first couple of lines there are the most significant adjustments. When you look at Rider 26 and 27, basically $8.8 million of that $9.7 is our additional revenue that's earned above the Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate. You're seeing that come into the budget. So, and then, on the grants there, I looked at all the various grants. There's just numerous grants in there; there's not one specifically to highlight, but we've just got several grants also coming into the budget.
In looking, lastly, just at our budget versus expense here, we have 58.6 percent of the budget remaining, with 50 percent of the year elapsed. Again, all of the categories, as you can see, are basically on track. We are showing 83.8 percent of capital projects still available, but there are several projects in progress, and this balance will continue to decline as the year progresses. That $15 million at the bottom there are the bonds for the East Texas Fish Hatchery. Those bonds have been issued. We're still on the design phase of that hatchery, and I'm told we won't really start encumbering and expending those bonds for the construction part of the hatchery until the first part of the summer.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But the bonds have been issued?
MS. FIELDS: They were issued —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — they were issued?
MS. FIELDS: — in February.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay.
MS. FIELDS: And basically, that concludes the presentation. I'll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Question on the hatchery. We've issued $15 million of bonds; we've got $12 million in that account. So how much of the $12 million that's in the account is now dedicated to debt service, and how much is surplus?
MS. FIELDS: The debt service on the hatchery, I believe for this year, is $1.3 million. Does that sound right?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: It's $2.6- for two years? Okay.
MR. DUROCHER: The debt service is in the base. It's not included in that —
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The $12's above and beyond the debt service then?
MS. FIELDS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
MS. FIELDS: I'm sorry. Yes, it is. Those are balances at the close of the fiscal year '07.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But the $12 million, at this point, is not authorized to spend. In other words, you get your $15- bonds, but not the $12-.
MS. FIELDS: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other discussions or questions for Mary? Okay, thank you, Mary.
Committee Item number 3, Legislative Update, Mr. Robert Cook. Bob is going to present this.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We're going to have a little handout here. I'd like —
MR. COOK: Mighty good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — a little help to hopefully understand the legislative conversation we're going to have. As you get this, the first column is our request. I'll have Gene pass it out. The first column is Texas Parks and Wildlife's request; the second one is LBB's funding options, okay? Then you have the house markup; then you have Finance Committee's, okay? I thought this would help us, then, as Bob goes through this conversation relative to the legislative update. Thank you.
MR. COOK: In the process of doing this, I may call on Mary and/or Gene to help us work through it. I think, probably one of the most important things I can say is, that we have been heard. We certainly have made our requests known throughout this process that we are in, and we are still early in the process, you know. If you gauge it on a where-we-are meter, we are probably a third of the way, 40 percent of the way through. So we still have a lot of work to do, and a lot of opportunity, and we are working at it diligently.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Gene did point out too, of course, obviously this is a moving target. So some of the things, particularly under House and Senate, may be changing literally daily. So I just want to make sure that we understand that this isn't a fixed document at this point. Our request is, but other than that — LBB is, but everything else is a changing scenario.
MR. COOK: I'll ask Mary to run the slides for me, if you want to watch the screen there. One of the — you know, you may recall that our number one priority request was to restore the 10 percent reduction that we had prepared our budgets by, and LBB did recommend that and both Senate and House have. So far, that is in the document. Our base budget is where we started from, as opposed to losing that 10 percent right off the top.
Article 6 is kind of our budget, you know, what they're talking about when they talk about Parks and Wildlife. Article 11 is what we lovingly call the Wish List, and, you know, but what Article 11 means, and I think it's real important, is that that is still alive. That is still — those items that are included in Article 11 are still on the table for discussion. So at this moment in time, as HB1 has been passed out of the House, at 169 million items above the funded base bill, and from the Senate, which has still has not been passed by the Senate yet, but it's probably going to go very much like you see there on the board somewhere around $128.8.
Break that down a little bit and look at it, and I guess the key areas that we continue to work very hard with the folks downtown to discuss in the state park salary item there, we had requested $7.1 million per year, I believe it was, and they're running at a level there, about $4.3, $5.7. One of the biggest areas is that state park operating, which we made a significant request, as you can see in state park operating, paying the bills, paying the utilities, all the service that we get, and that has really been, at this point, very much reduced in the recommendations, and that's one of the biggest areas of concern.
You see that between Senate and House, they come up kind of pretty close with the same numbers, but they do it in a different way. Article 11, there's a number of items contained in Article 11 in the House. Transportation equipment, as you're going down that list there, has been pretty — has received a lot of support, division support costs, you know, where we would have staff to replace folks that we've lost in the Infrastructure Division and in our financial group — that's been pretty well supported.
Capital repairs, they're working on that. They know that we need repair money. You can see some money in minor repairs, but the capital repair item, where we ask for the $46 million in bond money, they're approaching that from a different direction, and so, that's where, as we go into conference, we'll be working very hard and very closely with them.
Land acquisition, right now where it stands ‑‑ the last we saw the $9.6 million from Eagle Mountain Lake was still in Article 6 in a house bill. I believe there is a provision for that to be taken out of there, in one of the riders or one of the amendments. That's what we hear. But bottom line, it doesn't — what we're hearing in discussions and at the table with them, it doesn't sound like they're going to — that they're interested in funding land acquisition and development with new money that's going around and there is zero in that, other than that money from the sale of Eagle Mountain Lake. Like I say, that was very much in the air at this point in time.
Local park grants funding is at a pretty good level; not what we asked for, but at a — kind of brings us back to where we were a couple, three or four years ago. It's a nice level. I believe that there's a much greater need than that, but it brings us back to about that level. We see there's some debt service put in there.
MS. FIELDS: One thing I wanted to just mention too is these are biennial totals in here, so this covers both years of the biennium for all these numbers.
MR. COOK: Okay. In our request for GR for game wardens, you'll recall that we requested for the biennium — we requested about, something over $5 million, $5.2, $5.6 million for game wardens, and it looks like both House and Senate are interested in helping us there, interested in funding that at some level. They've both put some provision in there for that, and again, we'll go to conference and continue to work that one.
Freshwater fish stamp, we're not seeing much support there for bringing out that additional money or additional revenue that is coming into the freshwater fish stamp funds. At this point in time, it sounds like we're going to be staying at the same level with the $15 million bond, and again, we continue to work that with them and have a lot of support throughout the state to bring that funding forward, but it's costing the bill, and they may or may not do that.
Repairs to the battleship, House and Senate are approaching it a couple of different ways. The House recommended breaking up that $12.5 million out of the GO bond that is specified for the battleship. And really, we had a good discussion with Mr. Isett and Mr. Noriega, and Mr. Smith, I believe it was, on that one. They recognize that that's not going to finish the battleship; that's not going to complete the deal. But where we are in that process, the Battleship Foundation has agreed to pay for the engineering study, and we all agreed that that's first, and until that engineering study is done, we really won't have a solid idea of what needs to be done. Everybody, I believe, agreed that the best end result is in a dry berth, so that's kind of a landmark achievement, if nothing else. And we know that that's going to cost significant dollars, somewhere in that, you know, anywhere from $30- to $50 million, depending on what we have to do to the structure of the battleship itself. So that gets us started and that's kind of the approach the House took.
The Senate, at this point in time, and as you can see, it's in Article 11, it's in the Wish List there, but they kept it alive; that's money that — I believe they refer to that as bond money, and not Prop 8 bond money, but they referred to that as — we might bond it this way, so we'll see how that goes.
Texas State Railroad, there's no funding in either article, of the Article 6 bills, as it stands right now. There was a rider, amendment from, I believe, Mr. Hopson, for $7.6 million for the biennium to re-staff and begin repairs at the railroad, and there is some support for that incentive also.
The rest of those items there, boat security initiative, I think appropriate out of the Governor's Office, and ends up being some support in our Law Enforcement Division, which would be very helpful. Canadian River, off-highway vehicle site, is an initiative that they've been talking to us about for a number of years, and actually would provide for an OHV park that we would operate along a strip of the river there. We've got an access point at the major highway there, right north of Amarillo, along the Canadian, and if that funding comes forward, we would be able to operate that site, you know, with that additional funding. And, in Article 11 there again, you see the debt service that would be required to fund that money on the battleship. Okay?
Significant riders in both House and — particularly in the House, there's a number of riders. I won't even attempt to tell you about all of them, but I can tell you this, that a number of the consumer amount of the funding that is in the House bill at this point in time requires a lot of reporting on the audit, which we'll tell you that, we can do that. It adds 16 internal auditors in state parks. A discussion of this, and we've not had a lot of opportunity to get into that one, but we would put an auditor — to make sure that the audit recommendations are being implemented and done right — we would put an auditor in each park and we would have eight others. We'll work with them on that. That's — I've got a little bit of a problem with that, but it depends on how they fund it, particularly.
MS. FIELDS: Bob, I believe also, that's in each region.
MR. COOK: Yes, per region.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You said each park. That would be about 114 auditors. Now you're really making me nervous.
MR. COOK: Seems like that's the number. Yes, each region. I'm sorry. We have eight state park regions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: But they want two to the region?
MR. COOK: It's just rough talk right now. There's not anything very clear on that, John, but what we've heard from LBB is obviously they want one, and no less than one in each region, and I guess, have some floaters. I'm not sure; it's not too clear.
You can see down there, appropriations, the real estate sale which, by the way, as you, I believe all know, we did get Eagle Mountain Lake sold for the appraised value, and that money has been deposited in the state treasury, and there's a rider that would appropriate that money for the purposes intended, the purposes that it was —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is that rider attached?
MR. COOK: It's going with the House bill.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I spoke this week to Charlie Geren and he has the assurances of Chairman Chisum that that will be part of the debt, so that — now, I've got to say, while we're on the subject of Eagle Mountain Lake, it wasn't always assumed that we would get this done, and it was quite an accomplishment, and I want to thank Phil Montgomery for his work. He worked hard on it, and especially our friends at the Trust Republic Land.
You may remember, it wasn't always the case that we would get this sold, and keep it a park, which was always my goal, to be able to reallocate that money to acquisition of a new parking area, consistent with our plan. The Trust Republic Land really came through on this deal, and the people of Fort Worth, the corporate citizens and a lot of private citizens made it happen, and so they should be recognized and thanked. And as I told Trust Republic Land, all you have done now is make sure I call you every time we need to get one of these deals done. Remember, they also did the Government Canyon Land deal in San Antonio.
MR. COOK: It's an important step. We've got some work to do, but it's an important step.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If I can, let me just bring you guys up to date. Peter and I appeared before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations, and Peter appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on this issue of the audit, and, as Peter said, we welcome the audit.
Any time when an agency is going to go ask for a significant increase of funding in the Parks Division that we asked for, an audit's appropriate, and that makes sense. What the audit shows is we've got some significant shortcomings in the financial controls in state parks, but to make it as simple and straightforward as I can here, if you don't have the people to collect the money, you're not going to collect all the money. And it's that simple, so I think Chairman Isett was right. There is a chicken and egg problem here, which is how do we address this without having the resources to address it?
Some of the other testimony was, I think, enlightening, which is that park visitation numbers are always an estimate. I mean, there's not four walls and a turnstile, quite like in a museum. It led to some, I think, rather misleading reports that there was some sort of inflation of park visitation. That's not correct. The estimates of park visitation are all estimates. The federal parks, state parks in other states, that's the way it's done, because you've got an open space there, so it's always an estimate.
Secondly, the system we use is the state of the art and, according to Dr. Crompton at Texas A&M who designed it, there's not a better system than the one we use for estimating visitation. The problem is the difference between what we can document from receipts and that estimate, and that is a large gap. But what that gap results from, where it comes from, is the visitors that you're not collecting from. Right here, McKinney Falls is a perfect example. Go out there any day at five o'clock and see the stream of bikers, hikers, and walkers that are going in and out of McKinney Falls State Park. They're not paying, because there's nobody there to take their money. We don't have staff for that.
So you have that, and then you have a very large number of people who are part of a group, Boy Scouts, church groups, and whatnot that — you know, that's a lot of people. And they're either paying a discounted amount or not at all. And we need to improve our system of how we charge those groups. Yes, I think it's correct to say, Gene, is there ‑‑ to say not exactly, Mr. Chairman. So feel free to say, not exactly, Mr. Chairman. We all listen when Gene says, not exactly.
We don't have a real uniform system of how we deal with groups and group discounts and we need that. But having said that, I don't think it's a good idea for us to balance the books and fix these parks on the backs of the Boy Scouts and the church groups, either. I mean, we don't want to do anything to discourage their use. So, with that, yes, we agree with — that a lot has to be improved.
There's really only — I won't go into all of it — but, there's one significant funding though, of that audit that I really take issue with, and that's Chapter 2‑A that states that we don't have any verification for the need for new parks. That's 2-A; you'll find it in the audit. I've been working on this since 1997, and I think we've got a lot of data, and I think one of the clearest indications is that every time the people of the state get a chance to vote on open space and ballot initiatives for parks and open space, they vote for it, to tax themselves for new parks. And, oh boy, with the details, as you know, the stack is high of the reports that we've been doing since — at least since I've been involved for the last ten years. The polling data and the Texas Tech study that Dr. Smidley did — I mean, that's exhaustive, would be an understatement.
So that is one finding that —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I agree with you a hundred percent, but I think it's important to note that the work that you were included on, back when Katharine Armstrong was chairman, when — and possibly the chairman before her, and certainly continuing on with Ernest Angelo to fill her spot, the work that you did on the — our Land and Water Conservation Plan, it's clearly documented in that plan —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, I agree. That's part of that statute.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — for a 5,000-acre new state park.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, but anyway —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: — and one critical area is in the Dallas, Fort Worth Metroplex area.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, I agree with you.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: They just don't have a large park.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: As I said, that is the one area I have a strong disagreement, and we can attack that, maybe after we attack the areas of the audit where we really — we do need to get to work. I did say the other day, and I hope I didn't contradict any of the other commissioners' feelings on this, but I said that, you know, we welcome the oversight, but we can't have the oversight without the resources to do something about the problem. We did not get in this problem, in this fix, on state parks for a $400 million backlog and all the other problems because we weren't collecting enough money from the Boy Scouts, and I think that kind of explains itself. Anyway, we need to get to work; we need to address the issues of the audit. Okay?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Before we move on, I have one question to ask about the freshwater stamp funds. The money that is being held right now, $12 million plus, how were those dollars generated? Who paid that money?
MR. COOK: Everybody that buys a freshwater fish stamp. Everybody that buys a —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Say that louder.
MR. COOK: — that money is collected as people who support the refurbishment, and the rebuilding, and the construction of new freshwater fish hatcheries in Texas, every time they buy a stamp, the Freshwater Fishery Stamp and/or our Super Combo.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And what did we tell those people that we were going to do with that money when they paid five bucks?
MR. COOK: Well, the stamp was approved, of course, by the Texas legislature, with the direction to us to build new hatcheries and to refurbish the hatcheries that we have.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you for repeating that, as it's been said time and time again.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't want anybody to leave with the impression though, that we're not being heard and that we're not getting attention. You know, with the exception of operations, those are some pretty good numbers. Folks, it's a real improvement; don't be discouraged. Especially in capital repairs, you know, we're getting a lot of FTEs. Like I said, would you agree, Chairman Holt —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, operating, I think, is the one place to worry —
MR. COOK: — with the exception of operations, we're making real progress.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — and essentially, there was the feeling that we need to be collecting more dollars and using those dollars for operations. So the Senate authorized us, any dollars we collect we'd be able to spend it in operating, but we're in that Catch-22 situation because, at least for the last two legislative periods, maybe longer, you know, it's been, we've needed to get some operating dollars.
So I think — but I want to get to Bob Cook's point is, that he said, and we're kind of one-third through this whole process, Conference Committee hasn't even met, the bill hasn't come out of Senate committee yet, much less the Senate, so we've got a long ways to go. And we are getting support, and the key is, just keep the momentum going.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Chairman, just one comment. The mere fact that we have an audit report that may have some points for improvement to me — it's not necessarily a negative — the whole purpose of an audit is to analyze and try and improve the system. I would think if you take corporate America, and if you were to do an internal audit, you know, you're always going to find room for improvement. So I don't take the audit as much a negative, as much as an improvement to the system. And I have an accounting background, so I have a little bit of background in auditing. So I'm not discouraged by the audit; I think it just gives us a different standard that we all should strive to achieve. And, hopefully, with the funding, we can accomplish that.
MR. COOK: We agree with that basically, you know. We'll be a better outfit when we get these recommendations implemented, and we're looking forward to it, and, personally, very positive.
These Senate riders mostly speak to implementation of the auditors' recommendation, cost benefit analysis associated with transfer of sites, and, you know, before we can increase park attendance — those are all involved in these riders to, again, oversee the audit, to report back on the audit, do some work to verify attendance numbers and how we might increase our revenues there.
Mary, explain that first — that set there in reference to the Comptroller's estimate. It also appeared in the House, a little bit different twist.
MS. FIELDS: This is kind of a different take on our current Rider 27. On the Senate side, what they've done is, right now we have an estimated amount, so if we earn over what's estimated in the rider, we get to keep it. In this one on Fund 9, they've written the rider as a not to exceed $1 million. So even if we collect revenues above that, we cannot exceed that million, and that is a biennial total for Fund 9.
On Fund 64, this one is very different in that it is actually requiring us to earn the $16 million above the estimate, over the biennium, with no fee increases, to meet the amount appropriated above. So, when you're looking at the Senate totals on this side, basically, out of that funding, they expect us to earn $16 million of it over the biennium to fund those operations in various areas that were discussed previously.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Now, Peter, can I interrupt just a moment.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How are we going to earn $16 million dollars, that $16 million? Sales or —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I mean, I think that's the issue that we've got to educate the Senate in, and the House probably, on too, relative to the audit, is an understanding that we're in a catch-22 situation. Over the last — I used the last two legislatures, probably over the last four — our FTEs are down, our budget's been down, and relative to trying to collect these dollars, even though our overall income has gone up fairly dramatically over the last, let's say, eight to ten years, it's nowhere near this number.
I think that's the education that Bob, and Gene, and all of us are going to have to do is to help them understand, because we haven't had the funding, we haven't been able to collect the additional dollars, and so to ask us to collect the additional dollars without funding for people, systems, and those kind of things, you're in a catch-22, and it's an impossible situation.
So I think part of our job is to educate the legislators on the needs for and understanding in a way that they really have not given us the $16 million, the $8 million a year, it's for the biennium — and that's just going to take some time, because what they've done is look strictly at the audit.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, and John, they have a point here, because, look, we have increased — although we have increased our receipts ‑‑ help me out here, Gene ‑‑ almost 50 percent, from $22 to $33 million —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: How much of that was fee inclusions? We had some fee increases.
MR. McCARTY: It was a combination of fee increases, increased attendance, both.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Okay, so it's a — and obviously some increase, I would guess, in efficiency of collecting, so we can collect more money. We've done that. In the last four years, we've collected 50 percent more money, from $22 to $33 million. All right? We didn't have that increase — we didn't have a 50 percent increase in visitorship or in fees, so the auditor's right. We are leaving some money on the table and we need to collect it. The problem I have is that's not going to be an exact number, because of all the different factors involved between the visitor estimate and the — am I getting it right, Walt? I mean there's a lot of different factors in that number. So if we're held to that exact number, I'm not sure that's what you're going to collect.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I see that need too, to collect more fees, but $16 million is a lot of money. And at the present time, do we have a plan for how we're going to do that? Because if we don't have a plan, how are we going to do that, Peter —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, John, one of the things, and maybe Bob or Gene, you can speak to this — we do have a system going in place that kicks up, that starts up at the end of this month, which will make us more efficient than we are. But, Mary, maybe you can speak to that — we need a second part of that, which I think we put in a request for another million three, and take that to the next level. Why don't you speak to that for just a moment, to help us get more efficient in collecting?
MS. FIELDS: Well, we are improving some of the financial control issues with the financial system, and there are two more phases. We are, as Commissioner Holt mentioned, beginning the roll-out of the new system toward the end of April. And then we have two phases that will actually do some further accounting improvements and improvements overall to the system. And then, we'll be interfacing that system with our other financial systems.
As far as other areas of implementing the recommendations of the audit, I don't know that I'm best to speak to that. I think, you know, we will be trying to improve some of our visitation counts out in the parks, and a combination of that and putting together a plan to address all the audit recommendations, should help with some additional revenue collection. But with more accurate visitation counts, I think, you know, it'll help.
MR. COOK: Commissioner, I think the best way to answer that question is —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Because it hasn't been answered yet —
MR. COOK: — immediately following, when we received the final, the audit report, and then we went to work and developed — started a draft plan of how to implement the audit, part of that plan is going to be dependent upon where we end up June 1. From the available — FTEs available — those kinds of issues, because when you've got overnight campers in a park, you can't lock the gate. People are going to be going in and out, off and on all night. You're camping. And so, you know, we're just going to have some more, some additional control, some standardization of verifying that people came during the night and they set up camp, that we go by and check the campsites and anybody who's not checked in, collect that money. We're going to have to make some decisions. If something like this stays in place, I think we're going to have to make some decisions.
One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, regarding this issue is whether or not we're going to charge those Boy Scouts, church groups, school groups, individual families, when they come to the gate, because that money is included in that $16 million. I think that's a major decision; I think that's, as Commissioner Holt spoke to, that's part of the education process that we've got to get done as this goes to conference committee, to make sure that we understand what's to make up that $16 million, or [inaudible] it be $16 million. But until we get to June 1, until we know what has been appropriated, until we know what the — what riders have passed, what riders have come with this plan, it, you know, we're going to work on the audit immediately. We're working on it right now. We have people working on this very step, but a final plan of how to collect that $16 million, I would think we would need to wait until we get a little clearer, more clear direction.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And Bob, I agree with that. I think, John, you're bringing up a good point. But I think that's part of our job now in this Commission, is to educate and communicate, and so, I think that's something we're all going to have to do with the legislature between now and June 1st, and particularly, the conference committee meeting in the next, probably, two weeks from now. They're going to start — is help them understand the requirements that they're asking us to do are probably not possible, unless it's on the backs of, you know, schools, and collecting dollars in the areas maybe that legislators don't want to, but are not aware of at this point.
So I could argue that's part of our job —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: How did we, how did somebody, come up with this $16 million shortfall that we're letting certain groups to the tune of $16 million come into our parks?
MR. COOK: Scott, you want to answer that one? I think you've probably dealt with it as closely — they basically used our numbers, Commissioner Parker, and that's part of the weakness of the documentation.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Our receipts don't equate with them.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I understand that. I just want to —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I know. Scott, go ahead.
MR. BORUFF: My name is Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director for Operations. Excuse me. In our meetings with the auditors — first of all, I would point out that in the audit itself, the $16 million is referenced as a potential loss. If you read the document closely, it doesn't say that they think we actually lost $16 million. They say that given the poor documentation that was referenced relative to our numbers, there is a potential for up to $16 million in losses.
They put together a formula that looked at visitation. One of the weaknesses that we've acknowledged is that without the technology and the staff in the field, we don't have a very consistent way to look at visitation from site, to site, to site. It is one of the things we need to fix, so my belief is that the auditors looked at our numbers, which were not the strongest numbers in the world — they're certainly better than they have been — and then used some mathematical formulas to evolve a potential number.
So, obviously the bottom line is we don't — we agree that there are recommendations in the audit that if we clean up, would allow us to have visitation numbers and revenue numbers that would more accurately reflect what the real number is out there. We don't know what the real number is, but I think the number came from the fact that our numbers are confusing at some points, the way we collect those numbers, and some assumptions about those people that visited, whether or not they should be paying or not. And those were assumptions that we weren't involved in driving.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Have we taken that $16 million and backed out what we would consider to be the standard deviation and breakouts of fees, and other fee structures? Can you put a number of visitors to that $16 million? I mean can you put an actual attendance at the state park system, give us a range or a ball park of the number of people that we would have to account for, for that number?
MR. BORUFF: We have not done that, but I think we could. There again, I mean, what you're saying is how many folks would have to visit the parks to make up the $16 million? I think we could come up with an estimate for that.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I think that could be helpful for the legislature, because if it's not a doable number, if it's totally beyond any reason, then I think that we need to know about it. We need to realize that.
MR. BORUFF: Well, I think if you used, for example, if you used $3 as an average entry fee, because our entry fees run from a dollar to $5, that's 5 million extra people every year you'd have to bring through the door to come up with a $15 million amount.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, you'd make $8 million a year, so whatever that would be.
MR. BORUFF: Yes. You can do some simple math like that. The issue then becomes who are you going to charge and who are you going to discount? Are you going to continue to allow discounts for church groups and Boy Scouts or not? And the second part of that question is, suppose you decide not to give any discounts, would they still come? Those are questions that are unanswered, and I'm not sure they're answerable.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Ramos, he's been —
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: As a backdrop, it seems to me that we need to recognize what the purpose of the park service is, as step one. If we recognize that there's a need for the constituents and the citizens of Texas to access the outdoors, for the youth to access the outdoors, where are they going? It's hard to access private lands, so the only other option that's out there are state parks, and we can become too efficient in collecting fees. We can become too efficient in increasing fees, to a point where we defeat the whole purpose of state parks.
And it seems to me that until we are sensitive, and we have to be sensitive to the needs of the constituents here. Now, to me, the $16 million potential loss confirms the fact that people want to go to parks, because if, in fact, that estimate is accurate, that means — and let's say we charge each one $2 — that means that many additional people accessed the parks. And my concern is that we can become so efficient, and we can increase fees to a point where we defeat the whole purpose of parks. It seems to me that, if anything, we should be supplementing and putting additional funds in parks to ensure that the citizens of Texas that cannot access the outdoors, actually access the outdoors.
So, you know, and I'm all in favor of audits, and it's great and I think we need to respect it, but we, I think, as we look at this, we need to back up, and to the extent that our staff may have let people in, you know, church groups, people that drive up that maybe cannot afford a carload of people at $3, I think we need to continue to be sensitive to that. And I think the legislature needs to consider that, because the purpose of parks — I don't see it as a business to make a profit. I see state parks as a place where the citizens of Texas can experience the outdoors that, unfortunately, cannot otherwise experience the outdoors.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: It goes back to the premise of Theodore Roosevelt. Parks are a gift to the people from the people.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good point.
MS. FIELDS: Just a couple of points on this $16 million. Again, it's $8 million per year without any fee increases, to generate that revenue, so we could not increase an entrance fee to collect this revenue. More currently, we're estimating in those two years to be bringing in about $34 million in state park fees, so $8 million on top of $34 is over a 25 percent increase.
The audit report also, when it referenced this $16 million, I think it's important to note that they also stated there was an overestimation of visitation, and this number says — in the report it says, excluding the visitation issue, this could be as much as $16 million. So they have identified a couple of issues, but they're taking this separately without the visitation count issue.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And the bottom line is that the legislature picks up, when they see $16 million, that's the number they're working on.
MS. FIELDS: That's correct; that's the number that was in the report, and they —
MR. COOK: Okay, water bill. Bottom line on the water bill, which again, is a very, very important item to us that many of you have worked very hard on. Many staff have been very involved in. House Bill 3 establishes a mechanism for developing environmental flow standards to be adopted by TCEQ rule, provides for creation of set-asides or reservations of water for environmental needs where unappropriated water is available, and establishes a consensus process overseen by environmental flow advisory groups, supported to a science advisory group.
And Senate Bill 3 by Averitt is identical to HB3, provides some support for voluntary land stewardship and a few other factors, but bottom line, I think going into the session, both of these bills look very much like what we hoped for. We're still working on them, just like all the others, but I think we're making some measurable progress here. We're very involved; the chairman's been very involved. I see Collette Barron back here, and we've been very involved all the way through the process, and we continue to work that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I wanted to say we have a couple of real champions in Chairman Averitt and Chairman Puente.
MR. COOK: Absolutely.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They've taken the environmental flows issue seriously and incorporated a lot of the recommendations from the Committee I served on. Like I said, when I came on here, five, almost six years ago, this was my number one issue, and I think we're going to get there. I really do, and again, Chairman Averitt and Puente are committed to make it happen.
MR. COOK: Sporting goods sales tax ‑‑ two bills, I believe you're all aware of those. They've been in the press a lot, got a tremendous amount of support in both House and Senate. Basically, bottom line, those bills lay out that all of the sporting goods sales taxes collected on those items appropriate, which now is running about $106, $108 million, something like that, anticipated to be $112 in the next biennium, would be dedicated to, allocated to state parks. There is a lot of what-ifs behind that. Obviously, the appropriations process has to take that kind of action for that money to actually end up for us to use it, but the bill is passed out of Committee, been referred in the Senate, a tremendous amount of support.
HB7, which speaks about the transfer of the historic sites, again, a lot of discussion about such. We bounced around on the numbers some, through time, and the discussion back and forth between THC, between the TPWD, and the legislators involved, and we're looking at a roll-up now in HB12, probably combining, it looks like a bill that combines HB6 and HB7. Don't have a companion bill in that in the Senate, but it ties that sporting goods sales tax money to this transfer of some number of sites.
Yesterday about noon, the number of sites was 14. My understanding is today, it's back up to 18. There was some discussion between some of the elected officials as to whether or not they want their site included. That discussion is ongoing, but basically, it's revolving around the same 25 sites that we agreed with THC to work on. And it's perking.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Just a question. When there's not a companion bill in the Senate, do we assume that there will be a companion bill in the Senate? If there is not a companion bill, what is the likelihood of this combined bill passing?
MR. COOK: Well, there's not a companion bill, and I'm not sure — Gene, would you help me out there, as to what process rise would happen, assuming —
MR. McCARTY: Are we talking about 12?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Both 7 and 12.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Neither 7 nor 12 has a companion. Mr. McCarty.
MR. McCARTY: I'm Gene McCarty, Deputy Executive Director of Administration. That bill would have to pass out of House and then come over to the Senate, and they'd pick up a Senate sponsor and pass through the Senate as a House bill. It has to pass both sides, but it doesn't necessarily have to have a companion bill on the Senate side. It takes a little longer that way. If you're going to do a bill, if you're going to pass a bill with only a single side, it's better to start the bill on the House side than the Senate side, because it's quicker to go through the Senate, so the bill, you know, is probably not necessarily having any liabilities just having a single sponsor.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: What — let's talk about the dollars in 12. What is the latest report on the dollar amount?
MR. McCARTY: There are no dollar amounts in 12.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And there are no dollar amounts in 7 in relationship to the transfer of the state parks?
MR. McCARTY: Well, in 7, it talks about — in HB7, it talks about 6 percent of the sporting goods sales tax going to historic sites.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: And what is the dollar amount that they're talking about of transferring — maybe it's in 3113?
MR. McCARTY: No, it's not. No —
MR. COOK: Mr. Parker, the latest version that we saw as of last night has 6 percent of the sporting goods sales tax appropriated.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Six percent of what we get?
MR. COOK: Six percent of the sporting goods sales tax.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That's appropriated.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Appropriated total, or the total generated?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Not total generated; appropriated. Key word, so it's not $106- to $108 million. It's whatever — hopefully, all that's appropriated, but if not, it's whatever. Now, the second part of that, John, Commissioner Parker, is that it is supposed to be tied to the number of sites, in a sense dollar to dollar.
So if we went from, let's say, 25 — I can't remember what the max number was at one time — and it drops to 14, then that percentage is supposed to drop accordingly. Now that's what we're going to have to work through and stay on top of, so that the park side doesn't drop, but the dollars still stay up. I mean, it's gotta be — and it's supposed to come up or down accordingly. Does that make sense? Am I making sense?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Sure.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I mean that's part of our job, and part of working with THC, and we've had a good working relationship with them, and this is certainly something that we'll follow through on. The Chairman has signed a letter and agreement and we will, you know, honor that, and we believe THC is going to honor it also.
MR. COOK: Two bills that, as you see, have been referred on the Texas State Railroad, and probably the main thing that they do is create this Texas State Railroad Authority, which kind of gives the local group oversight of the Texas State Railroad, for the possibility of it being operated by a private concessionaire, which may, and we've seen and I believe y'all are aware, we've seen a proposal from the private company that operates the railroad at Durango Silverton in the Rocky or Smoky Mountains, have made a proposal. This bill doesn't, as I recall, doesn't speak to funding. It just creates this authority that says, this thing might could happen.
I think, gentlemen, I think that pretty well — most of the other information in here goes to the next ‑‑ Mary.
Deer breeding bills, we're working very, very closely with Mr. Hilderbran and the deer breeder groups — I think we've got a consensus on these bills. Mr. Sinclair in Law Enforcement and Mr. Wolf in Wildlife have worked very, very closely with these folks and I believe that the bills as they stand right now, we are in consensus and we believe that they do some things that are worthwhile and important to get done. I don't think there's anything else there that we need to particularly spend any time on, unless y'all want to, if you have any other questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Bob. Any other questions or discussions on the legislature? I think, just so I can finish up, we need everybody's help, and I think it's a communication education issue for some of our legislators, and that's part of, I think, our job as commissioners to help the staff, make sure we get our requests across in an appropriate manner, so any help would be appreciated.
With that, why don't we move on to Committee Item number 4, License Fee and Structure Changes, Ms. Kim Dudish, I think is coming up. License Fee and Structure, Kim.
MS. DUDISH: I'm Kim Dudish, License Manager. I'm going to present to you the summary of the recommendations made by the License Reassessment Committee, which require Commission action. As approved at the January meeting, these recommendations were posted in the Texas Register and public comment has been taken.
First recommendation is combining the resident commercial fishing boat license with the non-resident commercial fishing boat license. This is to create one single license and there are no resource or management issues with this.
The next one is to combine the resident freshwater fishing guide with the non-resident freshwater fishing guide. Both of these licenses are priced the same, so it's just to create — simplify the system for us.
The next, we would like to rename the resident and the non-resident saltwater fishing guide to be the resident or the non-resident all water fishing guide, because that better reflects the actual activities that are authorized for this license. This is going to help reduce the confusion to our constituents.
We would like to split the special resident hunting license into two, one to be the senior resident hunting license that will be authorized for seniors, and then a second license for youth hunters. We also feel this is going to help the constituents understand which license to purchase, rather than having one special resident.
We would like to delete the resident July/August fishing packages. They didn't accomplish what they were set out to, and it's been adding some confusion for our constituents.
We recommend splitting the special resident fishing license into two, one being the senior resident fishing license, again to help the constituents. The seniors look to — for a license called, senior, and then have a special resident fishing license that is for the legally blind, that they are currently included in this special resident now, and we will waive the freshwater and saltwater stamp requirements for the blind license.
The next recommendation is to combine the resident day plus and re-purchase fishing licenses. There is a total of six licenses there; we would like to make one single resident one-day fishing license at $10, and waive the freshwater and saltwater stamp requirements for that. Similarly, for the non-resident, we would like to take those six and combine them together into one $15 day license and a constituent can purchase as many as they like.
We would like to create a fee of $3 for the bonus red drum tag. That will help us recoup our expenses. We took public comment; we got six responses. Four agreed; one left the comment that it makes sense to eliminate the administrative costs and still gather the information. Two disagreed; one felt the fee was too low for the non-resident commercial boat license, and one felt the bonus red drum tag should be included with the license and the license and stamps should all be in that price.
Staff would like to recommend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the license fee, structure changes to 31 Chapter 53, as published in the February issue of the Texas Register. Questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do you have any questions or discussion?
MS. DUDISH: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you, Kim. I will place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action, so we'll talk about it tomorrow.
We're going to move on to Item 5, Repeal of Fee for Proof of Ownership of Boats and Motors. Ms. Frances Stiles, please.
MS. STILES: Good morning. For the record, my name is Frances Stiles; I'm with the Administrative Resources Division. In January, I presented a briefing to you, requesting information — requesting permission to publish the repeal of the $2 boat fee for ownership reports. This fee is currently listed under the Texas Administrative Code, Title 31, Chapter 31, Section 16. Due to the improved functionality of the new boat system, we requested to remove the fee in order to proceed with implementation of internet online services for these reports and registration renewals.
This type of information is currently available for vessels that are titled or documented through the United States Coast Guard, and it's available at no fee on the internet now. Information that would be provided reveals a description of the vessels or the outboard motor, lienholder information, and the owner information and name and addresses. This has been published in the Texas Register; we received four positive comments, one from the Texas Boating Trades Commission, one from the Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers Association and we received one negative comment against. The other two positive comments were just positive.
This item is pending for action on tomorrow's agenda and I'm here for any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments?
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to just make a comment while Frances is here, and back to Kim's presentation. This item is one of those items where staff are working out there every day — this item and the previous item — where staff's working every day, looking for ways to simplify, looking for ways to make our record-keeping system simpler and to knock out a step, knock out a requirement that our boat owners have been having to jump through. And that's an ongoing process; the item that Kim presented is the result of a tremendous amount of work led by Dr. McKinney, and Kim, and various members of all of the different staff to, again, simplify our licensing process and work that goes on every day here, and I very much appreciate it; very much appreciate all that they do.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Frances. Any other discussions? Okay, we'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you.
MS. STILES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure, thank you.
Committee Item number 6, Nonprofit Partner Rules. Ms. Ann Bright.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. Excuse me. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel, and I'm here to present nonprofit partner rules.
The Parks and Wildlife Code authorizes the department to cooperate with nonprofit partners and it authorizes the Commission to designate an official nonprofit partner, and, as you all know, that's the Parks and Wildlife Foundation. It also requires that the Commission adopt rules regarding best practices, standards and safeguards for state assets held by a nonprofit partner, and I should point out here that, as a result of just our practice, nonprofit partners do not hold state assets. That's — we've gotten very strict on that, and then guidelines for the official nonprofit partners, solicitation and acceptance of sponsorships.
There is also a requirement in the Government Code that if a state agency is authorized to receive donations or has a private organization that supports the agency, that the agency is to adopt rules. And one of the items that have to be addressed are the relationship between the agency and the agency's employees in the dome.
In our rules, we split the various nonprofit partners into three types: the official nonprofit partner — as I mentioned, that's the Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the closely related nonprofit partners — and those are primarily nonprofit partners that are associated with a specific site or project, like, you know, the friends of a certain state park. Then, there is the official nonprofit partner, and I mentioned that. The general nonprofit partners are really just any nonprofit organization that has any kind of relationship with the agency.
It's my understanding that back in 2001, during the Sunset review process, one of the desires that was expressed by legislators in the Sunset Committee was that the agency keep a comprehensive list of nonprofit partners that we have some sort of relationship with. Most of these are people — for example, we may have an advisory committee where there is somebody who serves as a representative of a nonprofit partner. There are other nonprofits that support us in various ways, although they are not associated with a particular site.
For each nonprofit partner, the rules address four types of best practices. There is just the general best practices; best practices regarding officers and directors; fund raising; and sponsorships. An example of a general best practice is something, you know, applicable discrimination laws, proper incorporation, holding your obligating department funds. Again, because we have a close relationship with the official nonprofit partner and closely related nonprofit partners, we have more — we have stricter requirements, mainly because they're out doing things on our behalf, and we want to make sure that we're involved in that. We require certain reporting and notification of TPWD and others of their meetings.
Officers and directors — one of the statutory requirements is that they be provided a copy or a link to our Land and Water Plan. We also require, for the ONPs and CRNPs, that they provide certain information to their officers and directors. We want to make sure they're well informed about what they're doing, and that there's a conflict of interest policy.
Fund raising — we require permission before engaging in fund raising, and I should point out here that there's nothing that prohibits an unrestricted cash donation. We like those, but if an entity is out raising funds on behalf of the Department, we want to make sure it's something that we want to do, so we want to have some input there. They can't do things that require that we undertake some action, you know. For example, if you will contribute, Parks and Wildlife will do this. We want to make sure that we're involved in that decision. We want to make sure that if they're raising funds for us, that they're managing them prudently, and then, for the closely related nonprofit partners, we want them — their projects to benefit us or the nonprofit's mission.
Sponsorship requires our approval of sponsorships. Again, this is kind of that same deal where, if a corporation is going to sponsor a Parks and Wildlife activity, we want to make sure that they're not making promises we can't fulfill. We want to make sure that we're all in agreement as to the level of sponsorship donation recognition. Excuse me. We also — there is a statutory provision that prohibits the agency from accepting donations from commercial entities regulated by TPWD. We want to make sure that our nonprofits comply with that, and then I mentioned the sponsorship recognition.
We also have just some general requirements and Department procedures. For example, there is a legal requirement that donations over $500 have to be accepted by the Commission, and we prohibit TPWD employees from obligating nonprofit partner funds.
The Commission approved publication of this back in November, and in December, we provided a copy of the rules to about 50 of the nonprofit partners. We made some changes, then we published it for official comment on March 2nd, and then we received specific, very good suggestions from one commentor, and another commentor just supported it without stating his reasons.
We're proposing to make changes as a result of the comments. There is a provision about use of facilities by a nonprofit partner has to be pursuant to an agreement. We want to add written agreement. If a facility has more than one closely related nonprofit partner, we are asking that they notify each other of meetings, so that they are coordinating their efforts. And there are a number of places throughout our rules, the proposed rules, where we require, for example, a conflict of interest policy, and a lot of these nonprofit organizations are very small, and so we're going to develop model policies and procedures for them that they can adopt.
And this is the recommendation that staff will be presenting tomorrow, and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or discussion?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. With no further questions or discussion, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Is there any other things to discuss?
MR. COOK: No, sir. I think that's it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Cook. The Committee has completed its business, and we'll move on to the Conservation Committee. Chairman Montgomery, I will give you the gavel.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Finance Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 4, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through , inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731