Texas Government Insider
Volume 12, Issue 34 - Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Judge rules Texas public education funding unconstitutional


Education commissioner: Legislature, not judge, should make funding decisions

                                                          Dietz State District Judge John Dietz (left) Thursday ruled - again - that the state's system of school finance is unconstitutional. And he's given the Texas Legislature until July 1, 2015, to develop a new system.

In his 21-page judgment, Dietz pointed out that it is the duty of the state to provide an adequate public education for all students. The current funding system, he wrote, "does not give schools the resources to do that, nor do they have equal access to those resources." Also issued was a more than 380-page document outlining the facts and conclusions of law of the case.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams (right), one of the defendants in the case, said after the ruling that both sides of the issue have known the issue will eventually be decided by the Texas Supreme Court, and officials of the Texas Attorney General's Office have indicated the state will appeal. "Texas is committed to finding solutions to educate every student in every classroom," said Williams. "However, it should be our state leaders making those decisions, not a single judge. Any revisions to our school finance system must be made by members of the Texas Legislature."

The first such change made by the Legislature was in 2011, when the state faced a sizable budget deficit. To help bridge that gap, lawmakers cut $5.4 billion in state funding for education. A coalition of schools filed suit, with the case going to trial in 2012. In 2013, Dietz issued his first ruling that the state's method of Michael
                                                          Williams funding public education was unconstitutional. In spite of the Texas Legislature returning $3.4 billion to schools during the last legislative session, the court ruled the schools were still not adequately funded.


Brock Gregg, government relations director for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said Judge Dietz's ruling was "pleasing to the education community, but not surprising." He said in a television interview after the ruling that the evidence in favor of the schools that brought suit is "overwhelming." Gregg said that in the last 10 years, the state funding per student has decreased, while 700,000 new students have been added to Texas public schools enrollments. 

In his ruling Thursday, Dietz said that the current school finance system, dubbed "Robin Hood" because the state system imposes a recapture of property tax receipts from property-wealthy districts to share with property-poor districts, is unconstitutional. Dietz wrote this system "effectively imposes a state property tax in violation...of the Texas Constitution because school districts do not have meaningful discretion over the levy, assessment and disbursement of local property taxes."

Dietz also ruled that the State Legislature was not meeting its responsibility to the public schools "because the school finance system is structured, operated and funded so that it cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texas school children" and because the system "cannot accomplish, and has not accomplished, a general diffusion of knowledge" for all students due to insufficient funding. He also wrote that not all students have "substantially equal access" to the educational funds necessary to ensure that diffusion of knowledge.

More than 50 government entities call November bond elections


Schools, cities, community colleges, hospital district seek $6.6B in funding

                                                          When the deadline for calling November bond elections in Texas ended on Aug. 18, more than 50 government entities had approved putting referendums before their respective voters. The entities calling for bond votes include cities, towns, villages, community colleges, a hospital district and more than 20 school districts. They will collectively ask voters to approve nearly $6.6 billion in bonds for a variety of projects. 

The largest bond issue will be in the state's capital city, where Austin will ask voters to approve a $1 billion bond. Included is $600 million for an urban rail project and millions more mostly for highway and bridge projects. The smallest bond vote will be on a $3 million issue going before voters in the Crockett County Consolidated Common School District, with proceeds from a successful bond issue paying for bus upgrades and technology improvements.

In addition to highway and bridge projects, technology upgrades and rail projects, some of the other projects that would be funded throughout the state are new building construction on college and public school campuses, building renovations, safety and security improvements, telecommunications systems, public works projects, parks projects, public safety buildings and equipment, water and drainage projects, a new hospital and more.

Contracting opportunities will be plentiful in areas where bond issues are successful. Some may result in contracting opportunities that will span years.

Strategic Partnerships, Inc. has available for purchase its Texas Bond Package for November 2014. The document includes a listing of all the entities holding bond elections, the amount of the bond issue and detailed descriptions of what projects the bond proceeds will fund. The day following the Nov. 4 elections, purchasers of the bond package will receive a bond election results document. Included with the results document will be a list of proposed upcoming bond elections under discussion for May 2015 and beyond. 


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


                                                          Blackmore Lynn Blackmore, chief operating officer, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services 


Career highlights and education: I have had an extensive career in Texas health and human services, having worked in the system for more than 22 years and holding executive management positions for more than 12. I was named the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) Chief Operating Officer by the DADS commissioner, effective Nov. 1, 2013.  I began my career as an eligibility specialist with the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS) in 1992, and served in a variety of capacities at DHS, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). Prior to coming to work for the state, I worked as a police officer in El Paso, served in the U.S. Army as an engineer and worked as a manager in private industry.  I hold a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am also a graduate of the Governor's Executive Development Program as well as the DHS Building the Bench Program. I'm also a credentialed mediator through the Rio Grande Council of Governments. 

What I like best about my job is: Knowing that by doing my job well, I can make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable Texans. Because my job is primarily focused on the administrative aspect of the agency, I try to get out of the office to see services delivered whenever I can. It keeps me grounded and reminds me how important it is for me to do my job to the best of my ability.    

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Remember that everything you do every day has an impact on somebody. That advice keeps me focused. What I may consider a minor change could have a significant impact on staff or the customers we serve.   

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Spend the time it takes to know all of the services we provide. You don't have to be an expert on service delivery, but you do have to be aware of interdependencies. With approximately 17,000 employees in our agency, you can't know all of their jobs - but know they have a job to do and your job is to make sure they can do it. 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: at my ranch in Lockhart, clearing brush or working my cattle. It is where I go and what I do to relax. I find that I am able to do a great deal of planning and contemplation while I work outdoors. 

People would be surprised to know that I: married my wife after knowing her for only 11 days. We have been married for 23 years, so love at first sight can last forever. 

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: DADS programs provide services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  That means a DADS employee or contractor is working with vulnerable Texans all day, every day. While that presents a tremendous risk, it also presents a tremendous opportunity to make a difference.   
Kuntz in new role at Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
                                                          Kuntz The director of the Government and Strategic Communications Division at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), Jeremiah Kuntz (pictured), has been named as the new director of the agency's Vehicle Titles and Registration Division. TxDMV's Public Information Officer Adam Shaivitz will serve as acting director of the Government and Strategic Communications Division until that position is filled.

Kuntz joined the agency in 2011with a background in state government. He has worked for the Office of the Governor, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Senate. In his new role, Kuntz will oversee a department responsible for vehicle titling, registration and issuing license plates and disabled placards. It oversees 16 regional service centers and provides policy and procedural support to the 254 county tax assessor-collectors who process registration and title applications throughout Texas. The division also updates and maintains the state motor vehicle database.

Kuntz holds a bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, now Texas State University.
Kimbriel selected as deputy executive director for DIR
DIR The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has selected a new deputy executive director who will also serve as deputy chief information officer for the State of Texas. Todd Kimbriel (pictured with State CIO Karen Robinson), who has been an employee of the state since 2008, will begin his new charge on Sept. 1.

Kimbriel's entire professional career has been spent in the field of information technology, 25 years of which were in the private sector. His IT experience includes planning, design, operations and management in government and the telecommunications, aviation, retail merchandizing and import/export industries.

The new deputy executive director has held several positions at DIR, most recently as the agency's chief operations officer. In that role, Kimbriel had oversight of programs such as the state's voice and data network, technology cooperative contracts program, technology policy and planning and Texas.gov, the official Web site for the state.

TxDOT to seek highway fund money going to other agencies

As the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) faces a shortfall of more than $1 billion per year, the Texas Transportation Commission is looking for ways to shore up the department's revenues. According to the Dallas Morning News, at the Commission's monthly meeting this week, commissioners voted to add to their legislative agenda for the upcoming January 2015 legislative session, their intent to push for ending the sending of money from the highway fund to other agencies such as the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.


According to the News, more than $600 million in gasoline tax revenue and drivers' license fee funds that are sent to other agencies could be going to TxDOT. Although the Texas Constitution allows for gas taxes and some fees to be distributed to agencies whose functions are related to those of the state's transportation agency, the Commission is seeking to have those funds dedicated to TxDOT.

Cooper appointed to spot on Capital Metro board of directors
                                                          Cooper Attorney Wade Cooper (pictured) is the newest member of the Capital Metro board of directors. Cooper, the firmwide managing partner of Jackson Walker L.L.P., has also served as a member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) Transit Working Group. That will make him "a strong addition to the board," said Capital Metro President and CEO Linda S. Watson.

Cooper will replace board member John Langmore, who has completed his three-year term on the board.

Cooper is also the former chair of the Downtown Austin Alliance, where he is currently a member of the advisory board.

He graduated summa cum laude from Southern Methodist University with two bachelor's degrees and earned his Juris Doctorate from The University of Texas School of Law, graduating with honors.
Grow your

Betty appointed as commander of Texas State Guard
Brigadier General Gerald "Jake" Betty was recently selected by Gov. Rick Perry as commander of the Texas State Guard. When Betty takes office on Sept. 1, he will be responsible for the organization, training and administration of the Texas State Guard.

Currently Betty leads the Texas State Guard Army Component Command. He has served in both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve. Betty has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas A&M University.

2014 Outstanding Women in Texas Government selected

Four chosen for their service in sharing talents, skills to help shape Texas
                                                          Koenning Cook Catherine
                                                          Hejl There are more than 7,000 women who work in Texas state government. Four of those individuals were recently honored as recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Women in Texas Government Award.

This year's winner of the award for Outstanding Professional Development went to Sherry Koenning Cook (top left) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Catherine Hejl (top right) of the Texas Department of Transportation won the Outstanding Management award and Kris Bishop (bottom right) of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department won the Outstanding Leadership award. Lucy Molina (bottom left) of the Railroad Commission of Texas was named winner of the award for Outstanding Community Involvement.

The four winners were announced by the State Agency Council to the Governor's Commission for Women. The biennial award honors women in state service who have helped shape Texas through the contribution Kris
                                                          Bishop Lucy
                                                          Molina of their talents and skills. In addition to the Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards, the State Agency Council provides support to the Governor's Commission for Women and offers professional development training to its members.

The candidates were nominated in the four categories by their respective agency heads. The nominations were reviewed by an independent selection committee, with the four winners named whose contributions to their workplace or community best exemplified each of the categories.

"Texas women who choose lives of public service have a tremendous impact on this state," said Jo Dale Guzman, chair of the State Agency Council. "From crafting legislation to providing essential services to those in need, these women play a crucial role in leading this state toward an even stronger and more prosperous future."

The Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards Luncheon will be Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Renaissance Austin, at which time the 2014 award winners will be honored. Those interested in attending and honoring these exceptional women in government should register online.


Lowery-Hart selected as president of Amarillo College
                                                          Lowery-Hart Russell Lowery-Hart (pictured) recently won selection as president of Amarillo College. Lowery-Hart previously was vice president of academic affairs for the college. He replaces Paul Matney, who retired on Aug.1.

Prior to joining AC, Lowery-Hart was a provost at West Texas A&M University. He also is president of the Panhandle Twenty/20 consortium for 26 counties in the Panhandle.

Lowery-Hart has a bachelor's degree from West Texas A&M University, a master's degree from Texas Tech University and a Ph.D. from Ohio University.

DPS announces interactive mobile app to access information

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has launched a new mobile app designed to give Texans instant access to the state's Sex Offender Registry, Texas 10 Most Wanted program and other valuable resources. The app can be downloaded free to iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets.

DPS Director Steven McCraw said the app is an interactive link between the public and DPS. It allows users to submit tips for wanted fugitives and report suspicious behavior from their mobile devices. Users can also view location-based information about human trafficking, registered sex offenders and more. 

The app is currently available for iPhone users on the Apple App Store and for Android users on Google Play.

Cabrales named to Texas Economic Development Corporation
                                                          Cabreles David Cabrales (pictured) of Dallas was recently appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve on the Texas Economic Development Corporation for a term that expires at the governor's pleasure. The Governor's Division of Economic Development and Tourism, along with TexasOne, market the state to businesses and consumers outside of the state.

Currently an attorney and partner at a Dallas law firm and a former general counsel for the Governor's Office, Cabrales is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association and a past member of the Texas Racing Commission, the University of Dallas Board of Trustees and the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners.

Cabrales has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and earned a law degree from the Southern Methodist University School of Law.
Grow your business

Mower chosen as next president of Port of San Antonio

                                                          Mower Port of San Antonio retiring president and CEO Bruce Miller is being replaced by a successful economic development official, Roland Mower (pictured). Mower, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corp. (CCRED), will assume his new role on Sept. 29.


Mowers has served as president of the CCRED for the last nine years, when the corporation recorded some of the largest investments in the United States by foreign countries. Mower will lead a team of approximately 100 employees at the port, including professionals in real estate and business development, airport and rail port management, construction, asset management, finance and marketing.

Texas Transportation Commission to prioritize $1.7B in funding

The Texas Transportation Commission recently created a stakeholder group to recommend priorities for spending $1.7 billion in new transportation funding if Texans approve a proposed constitutional amendment on Nov. 4. The group began work on prioritizing highway projects on Aug. 25.


The additional $1.7 million for highway funding depends on approval of proposition 1 to allow taking half of the oil and gas severance tax previously allotted to the rainy day fund and diverting that money to road funding, said Ted Houghton, chairman of the transportation commission. Texas needs an additional $5 billion a year to supplement the $10 million now allotted to maintain existing roads and build new roads, he said.

UT System regents confirm McRaven as new chancellor
                                                          McRaven Regents for The University of Texas System recently confirmed Adm. William McRaven (pictured) as the new chancellor, to begin his new duties in early 2015.

McRaven, a Navy SEAL who is retiring from the military in late August, coordinated the raid in Pakistan resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden.
He most recently served as the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command leading 67,000 special forces.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa plans to continue as chancellor until McRaven takes over his new duties in early January.

Cigarroa plans to return to the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio to lead the pediatric transplant team.
Public comment period on water plan spending ends Sept. 1

Officials of the Texas Water Development Board recently set a Sept. 1 deadline to accept public comments on proposed rules for funding through the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT).


Those interested in commenting on the draft rules may send written comments to rulescomments@twdb.texas.gov or mail to TWDB General Counsel, P.O. Box 13231, Austin, TX 78711-3231. The proposed rules were published in the Texas Register and the comment period opened on July 11.  Board members also held work sessions in San Antonio, San Angelo and Fort Worth to provide updates and hear public comments. TWDB board members plan to publish the final version of the rules for SWIFT and SWIRFT in December.

TSTC West Texas to use grant funds for mobile welding center

Texas State Technical College West Texas will use a $278,712 grant from the Office of the Texas Comptroller's Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Grant Program to build a mobile welding center. The mobile center will be used for on-site training for companies' new and current employees.


TSTC West Texas will be able to offer industrial companies in the area or region an option to participate in advanced welding techniques for new employees or employees seeking advancement. During the first year, nearly 50 students are expected to be served.


The facility will be a self-contained, semi-trailer with a classroom, individual welding stations and an instructor station. The equipment necessary for classes will be installed in the trailer. 

Need Federal Contracting?

Ector County ISD to install more than 1,000 video cameras
Ector County Independent School District trustees recently began planning for the installation of 1,068 new security cameras in campuses throughout the district at a cost of about $ 2 million.

The new security cameras will be installed at all elementary and junior high schools in the district. The high schools already are equipped with security cameras, noted a spokesman for the district.

District officials expect to seek bids to install the security cameras and award those bids in November.

McKinney moves forward with new $33M aquatic, fitness center


McKinney city officials recently received the preliminary design for a new $30 million aquatic and fitness center (see accompanying artist's rendering) at the Gabe Nesbitt Community Park.


Featuring 79,000 square feet of space, the three-story aquatics and fitness center  has indoor leisure and competition pools, an outdoor leisure pool, gym, fitness areas, indoor track and multi-purpose rooms. Once completed, the new aquatic and fitness center features 9,000 square feet of pool surface.


Current plans are for the McKinney Community Development Corporation to pay $24 million of the cost of the aquatic center, with the city paying the remaining $9 million with funds from bonds approved by voters. City officials expect to seek proposals to build the facility in early 2015 and for the new center to open by summer 2016.

Health Science Center at Kilgore College wins $60,000 grant

The Health Science Center at Kilgore College recently won a $60,000 grant from the Annie B. Laird Foundation to help pay for two pieces of instructional equipment and to renovate the department's new facility at Laird Memorial Hospital.


The grant will pay for teaching equipment such as a single limb whirlpool for the physical therapy assistant program that the college previously could not afford to purchase, said President Bill Holda. 

SPI Training Services

A new fire station in Katy on $5M bond ballot in November

Katy City Council members recently authorized placing a $5 million bond proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot to build a second fire station to serve the city's growing southern area.


After touring area fire stations, Katy officials hired an architect to develop a designed similar to the design used for a Baytown fire station. That designs calls for dormitory areas to be designed with apparatus in mind to minimize noise when only one piece of equipment is needed to roll out in the middle of the night. City officials also are considering adding an area for training to the new fire house and do not expect to begin construction on the new fire station until about a year if voters approve the bond issue.

Waxahachie OKs $350,000 study to repair water treatment plant
                                                          Bailey Waxahachie City Council members recently approved $350,000 to pay for a plumbing consultant to explore the feasibility of repairing or replacing the lining and filtrate headers designed to protect four basins at the city's surface water treatment plant. The current coating is not adhering and is threatening the 20-year lifespan expected for the basins, noted David Bailey (pictured), director of utilities.

The city has made four failed attempts to reapply polyurethane coating to the concrete surface of the four basins. The current plan is to evaluate other systems such as a rubber liner or fiberglass to protect the basins during the next two months and then return to council with a recommendation, Bailey said. Replacing the headers, low-pressure vacuum pipes that collect filtered water from the membranes is also necessary, he said, but they are under warranty, Bailey added.
Houston-Galveston Area Council eyes $21M for Fort Bend 
Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) officials recently began considering a recommendation to allot $21.3 million in federal funding to match local funding for Fort Bend County Public Transportation projects. HGAC officials are expected to vote on the proposed amendment to the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) on Sept. 26.

The proposed funding to Fort Bend projects from the Federal Transit Administration included in the amendment to TIP calls for providing $10.4 million in capital expenditures, $8.4 million in operating expenses and $2.4 million to pay for planning, administration and grant management from 2015 through 2018.

Funding for public transportation projects increases over the four-year period as ridership is growing. Much of the growth is in the Fort Bend Express Commuter Park and Ride Service that operates from Sugar Land and Rosenberg to serve the Texas Medical Center and the Greenway Plaza area, said a HGAC program manager.


Lamar CISD places $240M bond proposition on November ballot 

Lamar Consolidated Independent School District trustees recently agreed to ask voters to approve $240 million in bonds in November. Projects included in the bond proposal are funding to build five new elementary schools and three practice swimming pools. 

McKinney economic group approves $1.5M for airport hangar
                                                          Madrigal Officials of the McKinney Community Development Corporation recently approved a $1.5 million grant to build an 18,000-square-foot hangar at the McKinney National Airport.

Designed to house transient aircraft ranging from single-engine planes to a jet aircraft for short-term and long-term periods, the hangar should be completed in about a year, noted Jose Madrigal (pictured), a deputy city manager. The new hangar is needed as all current hangar space at the airport is leased, he added.

Both the city and airport officials requested the grant as the additional hangar space could increase tax revenues for the city, school district, and Collin County, he said.
Spring Valley sets $13.5M bond vote for municipal building
Spring Valley city officials recently agreed to ask voters to approve $13.5 million in bonds in November to help pay for a new $7.5 million, 20,000-square-foot city hall and public safety building, The new facility is needed to replace a police station with security concerns that shares 8,400 square feet of office space with city hall workers, noted Police Chief Gary Finkelman.

The proposal also includes a second proposition seeking $6 million in bonds to pay for improvements to streets, the water and sewer system and storm drainage systems. Plans call for locating the new municipal complex on the southeast corner of the property on which the current city hall and police station are located. The new facility is expected to be completed in mid-2016 if voters approve the bonds.

Dallas County adopts new policy for purchasing department
Dallas County commissioners recently adopted a plan to improve policy and procedures of the county purchasing office. The action followed an indictment of a county commissioner on charges he allegedly collected almost $1 million in bribes from companies seeking to do business with the county.

Following recommendations from a study completed in 2009, commissioners agreed all county employees involved in procurement decisions must receive training in purchasing policies. And, the county must issue a written purchasing policy manual and create an appeals system for companies that contend they were wrongly eliminated in a bid.

Commissioners also agreed to allow time for county staff to prepare a draft of the proposed purchasing policies and then staff will return to the court for review and final approval. The court also hired a former U.S. Attorney to assist in implementing the new purchasing process. Commissioners also hired a national search firm to help find a new purchasing agent to replace Shannon Brown, the former purchasing agent who resigned in June.
Port Arthur ISD seeks approval of $195M in bonds in November
                                                          Porterie Port Arthur Independent School District board members recently scheduled a $195 million bond referendum on Nov. 4. The bonds are needed to build new schools, renovate and maintain existing campuses, upgrade technology and improve security, said Superintendent Mark Porterie (pictured).

Current plans call for selling $100 million in bonds in January 2015 if voters approve the bond proposal. District officials then plan to sell $50 million in 2016 and the remaining $45 million in 2017, Porterie said.

District officials plan community meetings to help educate voters on the projects included in the bond referendum, he added.
Collaboration Nation

Canyon group urges study on new swimming pool, water park

A five-member pool committee recently urged Canyon city commissioners to consider funding a feasibility study for a themed water park to replace its aging pool and attract more visitors to the city. Commissioners are in the process of adopting a city budget for the next fiscal year.


Assistant City Manager Jon Behrens, who was a member of the pool committee before joining the city, said he studied water parks and pools in neighboring cities along with the companies that work with cities on pool projects and believes a feasibility study is the next step. Pool committee members began studying a swimming pool/water park project in July 2012 and presented options to city commissioners, but no action has been taken, he said.


Public meetings indicate that residents prefer a water park to be placed in Connor Park and have a western theme to tie into other local attractions. A competition pool was last on the list, but support may exist for a six-lane pool for swim team practices and exercise, Behrens said.  Commissioners took no action on the recommendation.

New municipal court facility in Midland carries $15M price tag
                                                          Love A revised cost estimate recently increased the cost of construction for a new municipal court building in Midland to be almost $15 million, more than $815,000 over the previous estimate.

Noting the need for the project first discussed in 2001 to proceed, city council members agreed to pay the higher costs as the old 30-year-old court building is overcrowded and inadequate to serve the public, noted John Love (pictured), mayor pro tem. The latest additional expense is due to the need to replace an antiquated telephone system, he said. City officials blamed higher materials costs and inflation for the increase in the $8 million cost estimate for the project in 2010.

City officials have not yet announced a date when the new municipal court building will be completed.
Pasadena moves forward with $4.3M road, drainage upgrades
Pasadena City Council recently moved forward with a proposed partnership with Harris County to join in a $4.3 million road and drainage upgrade on Randolph Road, east of the city.

Council members voted preliminarily to contribute $2.4 million of the total cost and the county will provide about $1.9 million to improve Randolph Road from Spencer Highway to Pine Street. Improving drainage is a major part of the project and will need large, open ditches to route water to a new detention basin planned as part of the project, city officials said. A final vote on the road and drainage project is expected in September.


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Edinburg may nominate hospital for state incentive program
                                                          Garza Edinburg City Council members recently began considering a request by officials of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance to nominate a proposed $206 million expansion of the hospital to be included in the Texas Enterprise Zone Program that provides sales tax rebates to companies that create jobs.

Current plans for the hospital expansion call for building a geriatric surgery center and orthopedic facility in 2015 that hospital officials claim will create 520 new jobs with projected salaries of $125 million. The hospital additions will support the new medical school operated by The University of Texas of the Rio Grande Valley, said City Manager Ramiro Garza (pictured).

The TEZ program selects 105 participants for every two-year budget cycle to receive the incentive. The companies must be nominated by a city or county. The mayor expressed support for nominating the hospital project for the state TEZ program, but council members took no action on the recommendation.
Port Aransas to issue $1.69M in bonds to expand ferry landing
Port Aransas City Council members recently agreed to issue up to $1.69 million in certificates of obligation to buy land to build more stacking lanes for the ferry landing.

The current plan is to combine the city-owned land with land owned by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to create new stacking lanes for the ferry operated by TxDOT, said City Manager Dave Parsons. The new plan for stacking lanes is expected to hold more than 400 vehicles to relieve traffic congestion on streets leading to and nearby the ferry landing, Parsons said.
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University Park to spend $31,000 on study for aquatic center
University Park City Council members recently approved $31,000 to pay for a feasibility study to build an aquatic center on Lovers Lane to be shared by the city and by Highland Park Independent School District.

School district officials proposed the city add and operate an aquatic facility next to an existing outdoor pool at Curtis Park, but to be built by the school district using bond funding. The study will look at the best size for the building, parking availability and activity needs by speaking with community leaders and focus groups.

The consultant is scheduled to present a written report on the proposed aquatic center in November. Council also plan to schedule a public meeting on the project in September.
Texas EMS Conference set in Fort Worth Nov. 23-26
Texas EMS Conference, one of the largest EMS conferences in the nation, kicks off Nov. 23 in Fort Worth. Texas EMS Conference draws emergency medical services personnel for three days of emergency medical education, including continuing education for EMS, nurses, firefighters and physicians. The conference also features a 170,000-square-foot exhibit hall filled with state-of-the-art medical equipment, EMS supplies and services, job opportunities, ambulances and helicopters. Preconference classes, ranging in length from four hours to three days, feature cadaver anatomy labs, wilderness rescue and response to bombing incidents. For more information, go to www.texasemsconference.com.

TML plans 102nd Annual Conference, Exhibition in Houston
Billed as a "program packed with topical concurrent sessions, engaging speakers and chances to network and share ideas with your colleagues from around the state," the Texas Municipal League (TML) 102nd Annual Conference and Exhibition is scheduled for Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. The event will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. This year's event will feature best-selling author and former leader of the Disney Institute, Simon T. Bailey, who will address the topic "Shift Your Brilliance" during the opening general session. Keynote speaker for the Delegate Luncheon will be John Foley, former lead solo pilot for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, whose topic is "Your High Performance Climb." Former TV news anchor Gloria Campos will address the Woman in Government Breakfast speaking on "Everything is Fair in Love, War and Politics." Six concurrent session tracks are available, including such issues as quality of life, transportation and infrastructure and finance. Elected city officials can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for attending. Registration is now open and the agenda is available.

NASW/Texas State Conference set for October in San Marcos
More than 1,000 social workers are expected to for the 38th Annual National Association of Social Workers (NASW)/Texas State Conference. This year's even will be Saturday through Monday, Oct. 18-20, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Spa and Conference Center in San Marcos. In addition to networking opportunities, the event will feature presentations by presentations by NASW Assurance Services, Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners, Texas Association of Social Work Deans and Directors, Texas Field Educators Consortium and Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Up to 19 hours of Continuing Education can be earned by attending. For more information on the conference, how to exhibit or to register, visit the NASW/Texas Web site or check out the main conference page.

TEXAS DESAL 2014 event slated for Sept. 11-12 in Austin
The Texas Desalination Association's conference, TEXAS DESAL 2014 - Best Practices & Emerging Technology, brings together a diverse array of topics, presenters and attendees to build understanding and opportunities for desalination in Texas. Attendees are assured lively and informative discussions among industry experts, policymakers, regulators, researchers and water planners on the leading edge of new water supplies. Confirmed special guests include Texas Water Development Board member Bech Bruun and State Reps. Todd Hunter and Lyle Larson, who will address desalination from policy, funding and legislative perspectives. For sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, contact kford@waterpr.com. Full conference details at TexasDesal.org. For more information and to register, click here.
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Private capital pouring 
into new school construction


                                                          Scott NabersBy Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.


During the last decade, spending on education facilities in America increased more than 200 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even so, there is still a critical shortage of classroom space.

There seems to be no argument that more classrooms are desperately needed throughout the country. Population growth results in hundreds of new students each year. Not only are new classrooms and facilities needed, but old school buildings are also in dire need of repair and renovation.

Declining revenues, steadily increasing construction costs and taxpayers' disdain for tax increases may push education officials in the United States to follow the lead of Europe and Canada. Other countries are meeting education facility needs in a way that is somewhat new in America.

In Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan turned to the private sector for construction of 18 new schools. And, they decided to build all the facilities at one time with private sector capital. A public-private partnership (P3) engagement was devised to cover design, construction and maintenance.

The partnership allowed five school districts to collaborate with input from students, teachers, parents and members of the community. Then, a Request for Qualifications was issued for two "bundles" of schools. From the interested parties, a short list of finalists will submit proposals. Officials say there is both local and national interest in the projects, which they are confident will drive competition that will net savings. Once finished, the schools will be fully owned and operated by the public-sector partner.


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9th Biennial Legislative Communication Conference 
update announced
After careful consideration, we regretfully announce that this year's Legislative Communication Conference will not convene this fall as had originally been planned. We are committed to providing an informative and high-quality learning experience and found that this election year, when most of the statewide elected offices are turning over, it was just not possible to get the caliber of speakers that our audiences have come to expect. The consensus reached by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. and the LBJ School of Public Affairs is that it would be in the best interest of all involved to look ahead to the planning of the 2016 Legislative Communication Conference.

Please watch for the "Save-the-Date" message early spring of 2016.

Burnet CISD to seek $26.75M
bond to upgrade facilities
Burnet Consolidated Independent School District trustees recently scheduled a $26.75 million bond election on Nov. 4. Board members plan to upgrade existing schools with new air conditioners, roofs and other renovations and upgrades.

Teacher housing, new buses 

on Crane ISD $5M bond election 

Funding to help provide affordable housing for teachers and new buses are among the projects included in a $5 million bond election trustees for Crane Independent School District scheduled for Nov. 4. About half of the $5 million will be used to pay for teacher housing. Assisting teachers find housing in the district is critical because school districts in surrounding areas are building school housing to attract more teachers and Crane must remain competitive, according to school officials.

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Nolanville interviewing two finalists for city manager
Nolanville City Council members recently interviewed two finalists to serve as the new city manager. Kim Foutz of Temple and Michael Gaspard of Nolanville are the two finalists to fill the post that has been vacant since mid-July when former City Manager Stephen Pearl resigned to become human resources director in Nacogdoches.

A former assistant city manager in Temple, Foutz has 20 years experience in city government serving as a city manager in Lampasas and Midlothian and as a director of economic and community development in College Station. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas and a master's degree from Texas State University.

Gaspard, a certified legal assistant, has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas A&M University. He has managed four law offices for the federal public defender in the Northern District of Texas and worked in economic development and other administrative posts for the cities of Copperas Cove, New Braunfels and the Central Texas Council of Government's Work Force Development Division.
Millecam retires as director of communications in San Marcos
                                                          Millicam After 29 years managing communications for the city of San Marcos, Melissa Millecam (pictured) recently retired as director of communications and intergovernmental relations.

Formerly a newspaper reporter, Millecam joined the city in 1985 in a contract position writing news releases. In 1988, she became a permanent city employee, managing media coverage for San Marcos.

City Manager Jared Miller is appointing a review committee from representatives of city departments to help select a new communications manager.
Bullard ISD decides to wait 
until May 2015 for bond election
Citing the need of adequate time to educate voters on the need for proposed bond projects, trustees for Bullard Independent School District recently agreed to wait until May 2015 to schedule a bond election.

District officials plan to ask voters to approve funding to build a new primary school, expand an existing elementary school and renovate and build an addition to the intermediate and middle schools. Also included in the bond proposal are plans to construct a new vocational and CTE addition at the high school, a new dressing room for the dance and drill team and a new band hall, said Joe Dan Lee, interim superintendent for the district.
HDI Solutions

Lakeway seeking $3.77 million 
in bonds for youth sports 

Lakeway City Council members recently agreed to ask voters in November to approve $3.765 million in bonds to buy land for a new sports facility for the Lake Travis Youth Association.


To be located on Bee Creek Road, the 70 acres of land there provide enough space for soccer fields, baseball fields, volleyball fields, softball fields and football fields along with restrooms, parking and hike and bike trails. Supporters of the project pointed out that a Travis County commissioner has said he would seek funding in an upcoming county bond election to help pay for building the youth sports facility if the bonds to buy the land win approval.

Larry Gilley retiring as

city manager in Abilene

                                                          Gilley City Manager Larry Gilley (pictured) of Abilene recently announced plans to retire effective on Oct. 17. He served 12 years in that post and 38 years in city administration.


Gilley previously was a city manager for 14 years in San Marcos, and also served in Panhandle and Bovina before taking the city manager's job in Abilene. 

Nederland urged to upgrade 

swimming pool, build spray pad 

Angela Fanette, a supervisor in the Nederland Parks and Recreation Department, recently urged city council to include $583,999 in the city budget to pay for resurfacing the municipal pool, adding a spray pad and creating a veteran's park. Built in 1980, the city pool needs to be resurfaced at an estimated cost of $50,000, noted City Manager Christ Duque, who also said that plumbing necessary for a spray pad or spray park was installed when the pool was renovated in 2010. 


Pecos selects Honeyfield 
as new city manager
Pecos City Council members recently selected Eric Honeyfield of Hobbs, New Mexico, as the new city manager. Honeyfield had served as interim city manager in Pecos for a week before being asked to take the permanent post.

Honeyfield has 27 years experience in municipal government, including five years as a city manager in Hobbs before he retired in 2012. He begins his new duties on Aug. 25.

New schools, stadium on ballot 

for Katy ISD $748 million bond  

Six new schools and a controversial, $58 million, 12,000-seat stadium with field houses and parking are among the proposals included in a $748 million bond election in November called by Katy Independent School District board members. Some opponents asked for the stadium project to be placed in a separate proposition, but trustees approved only one proposition that included all projects on the ballot.


The bond proposal also asks for $357 million to build a new high school, two junior high schools and three elementary schools, and $227 million for renovations to six campuses, funding for agriculture sciences, technology, new buses and portable buildings. 

LeFleur Transportation

Fort Bend ISD sets $484 million bond referendum in November 

Fort Bend Independent School District trustees recently agreed to schedule a $484 million bond election on Nov. 4 asking voters to approve funding to build new facilities, upgrade existing facilities and improve technology, security and transportation.


The greatest portion of the proposed bonds will be spent on construction projects, with other bond items including technology, safety and security issues, transportation upgrades, new buses and more. 

Plainview selects Freeman 

as new assistant city manager

                                                          Freeman Plainview City Council members recently selected Andrew Freeman (pictured), the city manager of Tulia, to be the new assistant manager. Freeman replaces Jeffrey Snyder, who recently won appointment as city manager in Plainview following the resignation of former City Manager Greg Ingham.


Freeman previously worked for  the city of San Marcos before becoming city manager in Tulia in 2013. He has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas State University.

Lambert expected to resign

as city manager in Kyle

City Manager Lanny Lambert of Kyle recently said he plans to turn in his resignation to accept a new job as city manager in Converse. Lambert previously served as a city manager in Abilene, Balcones Heights, Big Springs, Brownsville and Leon Valley. He won selection as city manager in Converse over a field of five finalists who were interviewed.

El Paso appoints Salas 

as municipal judge in city

The El Paso City Council recently selected Victor Salas as the new judge for Municipal Court No. 4. Once he begins his new duties as a municipal judge on Sept.  30, Salas will replace Rick Olivo, who resigned to run unsuccessfully for district judge. Salas previously worked as an attorney in private practice and is a former federal public defender. He has substituted as a judge occasionally for Olivo in the past. 

Big Spring replaces all members of economic development board
Big Spring City Council members recently agreed to replace all five members of the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation board of directors. This included Don Avant, the president, and members Nati Saldivar, Scott MacKenzie, Jim DePaw and Frances Hobbs.

Because his position is salaried, Terry Weigman will remain as executive director of the corporation. Council has yet to name replacements for the five-member board of directors or approved a timeline to appoint new board members to oversee the economic development corporation.
Health Information Designs

Projects totaling $455 million 
on Garland ISD bond ballot 

Capital improvement projects totaling $455.1 million are included in a bond proposition approved by trustees for Garland Independent School District for the Nov. 4 election.


Included in the bond proposal are $157.3 million to upgrade mechanical systems, including electrical plumbing and speakers at facilities throughout the district, $50 million to improve technology, $44.4 million to renovate restrooms to meet the Americans With Disabilities Act  and $38.3 million to build security vestibules. Other bond funds address new departmental facilities, safety projects and more.

Kennedy to retire as leader 
for McKinney ISD
                                                          D. Kennedy Superintendent J.D. Kennedy (pictured) of McKinney Independent School District, recently told trustees he plans to retire, effective Dec. 31.

During his 40 years in public education, Kennedy also served as superintendent for school districts in Midlothian and Decatur. He joined the McKinney district in January 2010.

Kennedy earned a bachelor's degree from Baylor University, a master's degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Longview selects Shirley as director of development services

Longview city officials recently selected Michael Shirley, currently serving as interim director of the Development Services Department, as the new director of that department.


Shirley, who joined the city in the fall of 2001 as a city planner, replaces Kevin Cummings, the former director of the department who resigned in April. The department has four divisions, including building inspection, environmental health, planning and zoning and engineering services.

Fort Bend County names Knight
to lead facilities, planning
Fort Bend County commissioners recently named James D. Knight as the facilities manager and planning director. Knight replaces Donald G. Brady, who is retiring at the end of September.

A licensed architect, Knight has been a program manager working with Brady in facilities management. He previously was a principal in a private architecture firm in Houston. In his new duties, Brady will oversee maintenance, operation and housekeeping at more than 260 county structures that cover 2.5 million square feet of space. Knight has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University.
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Laredo eyeing $8.5 million bond sale for streets, sidewalks

Laredo city officials recently urged city council members to sell $8.5 million in bonds to pay for street improvements and upgrades to sidewalks and some parks.


Deputy City Manager Cynthia Collazo noted that city staff supports using the bond funding to build an extension to Bartlett Road to transform it into a five-lane road connecting to Del Mar. Collazo also urged setting aside $800,000 to upgrade sidewalks throughout the city. If council members approve the sale of the bonds, construction on the street and sidewalk projects could begin as early as spring 2015, Collazo said.

City of Mesquite, school district may join to upgrade sports fields
Mesquite City Council members in a recent workshop meeting agreed to work with the Mesquite Independent School District to negotiate an agreement to install artificial turf on sports fields at two middle schools and allow the city to use those sports fields on weekends.

School officials requested the city to contribute $250,000 to the artificial turf project expected to cost from $800,000 to $1 million, noted Assistant City Manager Cliff Keheley. With artificial turf installed at fields at Berry and A.C. New campuses, teams now playing Pee Wee football games at Valley Creek Park could use the two middle school fields. This would allow Valley Creek Park to host baseball tournaments on weekends, he said. School district officials also have agreed to maintain the two sports fields covered with artificial turf. Council members are expected to vote on the sports field proposal at a future meeting.
Kaiser resigns as city administrator in Stephenville
                                                          Kaiser Mark Kaiser (pictured), a longtime city administrator in Stephenville, recently resigned, effective immediately. City council members accepted the resignation and agreed to compensate Kaiser for six months.

Council members also appointed Pat Bridges, the police chief, as the interim city administrator to immediately take over the duties of that job until a new city administrator is in place. City officials also authorized Bridges to help find a search firm to assist in finding a new city administrator and a special advisor on planning and development to work on a temporary basis with Bridges while he is the acting city administrator.

In addition to the resignation of Kaiser, Drew Wells, the former director of community services, resigned to accept a similar job in Buda. The director of community development, Betty Chew, retired after many years with the city. Council also plans for the search firm to help find qualified candidates to fill these two vacant positions.

Buckert submits resignation as

Balcones Heights administrator

City Administrator Amy Buckert of Balcones Heights recently resigned. Buckert, however, agreed to remain on the job until Oct. 1 to help complete the city budget. City officials plan to begin a search for a new city administrator to replace Buckert before she leaves her post. Current plans call for the mayor and department heads to perform the responsibilities of the city administrator if no new city administrator is on the job by when Buckert leaves that post, the mayor said.

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Recent Reports

Dallas OKs $9M in tax breaks 

to develop affordable townhomes

Dallas City Council members recently approved $9 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) subsidies to help develop a 112-unit, $39 million townhome development with 23 of those townhomes selling for less than $150,000 as part of an affordable-housing component. The approval to help develop townhomes to be sold represents a first for Dallas officials, who have approved TIF subsidies only for rental properties. Current plans call for up to $5 million of the TIF funding to help with affordable townhomes, with $3 million allotted to landscaping, paving, pedestrian amenities and improvements to streets. That includes $800,000 to help pay for a bridge south of the development to connect with a transit station.


Current plans are to complete the $39 million townhome project located near the Stemmons Freeway with close access to public transportation facilities and the downtown area. The first phase calls for developing 11 moderately priced homes, with the city paying the developer an additional $150,000, the difference between the market rate and sale price. The second phase calls for building the remaining 12 affordable townhomes only if the 11 homes in the first phase are sold, city officials said.

Texas Government Insider

Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Ann Hart of Austin, Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders; 
  • Pam Rollins of Dallas, Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders;
  • Stephanie Sokolosky of Harlingen, Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders;
  • Craig Stoddart of Rockwall, justice of the 5th Court of Appeals 
Johnson resigns as municipal judge in city of Valley Mills
Madolyn Johnson, a municipal judge in Valley Mills, recently resigned after being placed on paid administrative leave by city officials who were investigation the operation of the office. City officials selected Hilda Cuthbertson, a clerk, to serve as interim municipal judge until a new municipal judge is appointed.
Warren retiring as superintendent of Shallowater school district
Superintendent Phil Warren of Shallowater Independent School District recently announced plans to retire at the end of this school year. Warren, who joined the district 14 years ago, also served as a teacher, coach and a principal during his 40-year career in public education.
Marshall ISD delays November 
bond election until May 2015 

Trustees for Marshall Independent School District recently agreed to delay a bond election discussed for November until at least May 2015. A bond election this year in May to fund facility improvements throughout the district failed by 200 votes. Board members also discussed taking a new approach for the next bond proposal.

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The Texas Government Insider is a free weekly e-newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
The Insider is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1994 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.
To learn more about SPI services click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900.
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