Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 24 Friday, June 23, 2017
It took 140 days to decide how much funding and flexibility two-and-four-year educational institutions would receive. Higher education had a chilly reception at the beginning of the 85th Legislative Session when three bills were proposed that would have frozen all tuition and fees until 2022, repealed the tuition set-aside program and required schools to reach certain targets in 11 benchmark categories before being able to raise tuition and fees. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1, in the beginning, also didn't fall too favorably in the direction of higher education. "The Legislative Session was a tough one for higher education, although the end result was not as severe as the first formulations of both the Senate and House budget," said Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund A. Paredes. "Even before the Legislative Session began our member colleges, certainly here in this office, heard loud and clear from legislators that this was going to be a very tight fiscal year in the session and so we kind of just braced ourselves for a very tough funding session," said Texas Association of Community Colleges President and CEO Jacob Fraire.

According to Fraire, the initial appropriations bill would have reduced formula funding for community colleges right at $6 million. The session ended, when all nickels were counted, with a net increase in formula funding of $19 million. "For us, that was not just a net positive in terms of dollars but it was really a reflection of how the legislature values Texas community colleges across the board so that was a very positive outcome for the 85th session," said Fraire. 

"I think that community colleges did pretty well and I think it was significant that the legislature really paid attention to the important role of community colleges and Texas State Technical Colleges in higher education so that was very gratifying," said Paredes. The commissioner also shared the significance of the current biennium's TEXAS (Towards EXcellence, Access and Success) Grant. The Texas Legislature established the program in 1999 to provide funds to academically prepared high school graduates with a financial need to pursue a higher education. "That is huge," said Paredes. "We will be able to fund about 92 percent of admission eligible students each year in the coming biennium. "We also get a small increase of funding for the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant (TEOG) which is for community college students and that is good news." The TEOG was created in 2001 to provide grant aid for tuition and required fees to financially needy students who enroll in Texas public two-year colleges. 

Dallas-Fort Worth receives $34M for hike and bike projects
Projects to provide more access to schools, employers and public transit will share $34 million in funding approved by the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) to help pay for 22 more safe routes to schools and 12 active transportation projects that include bicycle and pedestrian pathways to provide more transportation to pedestrians and bicyclists.

RTC officials approved $12.2 million to 22 Safe Routes to School projects, ranging from upgrades to sidewalks and crosswalks on trails for hikers and bikers to boost safety for those traveling to school, work or to connect with public transit. The RTC also allotted $22 million to Active Transportation projects. The awards cover 34 projects, 16 communities and eight counties in North Texas. Those cities, counties and other entities receiving the funding from the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program also committed to contribute $12.4 million in local matching funds to bring the total to $46.6 million to fund hike and bike projects. 

Two projects will receive the maximum award of $5 million. One is the second phase of the Trinity Strand Trail in west Dallas, a 2.4-mile extension to connect with existing trails and pathways to a medical district and two DART stations. The second one is a trail extension project in Grapevine to connect the Cotton Belt and Links trails and provide more pedestrian safety along West Dallas Road and access to a rail station that opens in late 2018. The funding they were awarded and a map of their locations are available here.
Study complete on possible El Paso to Las Cruces commuter rail line
South Central Regional Transit District (SCRTD) officials plan to release the results of a $50,000 study on the feasibility of operating a commuter rail line between El Paso and Las Cruces, New Mexico. The study, which was developed using the results of an online survey with 1,000 responses and two public meetings in Las Cruces and Anthony, indicates the El Paso to Las Cruces corridor has sufficient population and economy to support and benefit from commuter rail service.

Information included in the study would be a proposed service plan with a complete train schedule, the expected level of ridership, the cost of tickets and the capital cost to operate the train in addition to the development needed around the communities with a train station. Current plans call for the train to use the same track as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The plan estimates between 5,500 and 9,200 passengers would use the train on an average work day with the higher estimate requiring four trains, each with a locomotive and three passenger cars that are estimated to cost $76.8 million for new equipment and $13.7 million for used equipment. Current stops are planned in Las Cruces and Anthony, with the commuter rail terminating at Union Station in El Paso. The approval process for establishing the proposed rail service is very long, according to SCRTD officials.
Ector County ISD discusses bond for schools, stadium renovation
An Ector County Independent School District bond panel is touring district facilities to study whether to recommend to board members to schedule a bond election to build four new schools, a career and technical education facility and renovate a football stadium. Both high schools now have nearly 4,000 students each, Odessa High School needs to upgrade security as students now must walk to separate buildings without protection, said Superintendent Tom Crowe. 

While some of the future bond projects could take from 10 to 15 years to proceed, Crowe recommended that building two new elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, the career and technical education center and stadium renovation should be prioritized and completed within three to four years to meet rising enrollment throughout the district.

Bond committee members also discussed the possibility of incorporating the career and technical education center into a high school to give students the opportunity to pursue a technical education or follow a college preparatory path through high school. While board members said more study is needed to determine facility needs, the district cannot afford to improve facilities as some of the schools are nearing the end of their life span. The district last held a bond election in 2012 and approved $129.75 million in bonds to build three new elementary schools and expand both Odessa and Permian high schools.
Galveston to issue $21.7M for street and drainage improvements
Galveston City Council members approved the sale of $21.7 million in bonds to pay for upgrades to streets and drainage improvements. Voters in May approved the issue of $62 million in bonds to pay for capital improvement projects. City officials plan to award contracts for design, engineering and construction for the street and drainage projects beginning in mid-July. 

In the city's plans are a several projects that include $10.2 million for 18th Street drainage improvements, an $11.5 million project to improve 45th Street from Broadway to Seawall, a $1.8 million storm sewer rehabilitation and inspection program, $1.5 million for a construction project on 16th Street from Broadway to Avenue N 1/2, and $1.3 million for a construction project on 73rd Street from Heards Lane to Avenue N 1/2.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Craig Morgan, Mayor, City of Round Rock

Craig Morgan
Career highlights and education: Graduated from Texas Tech University, received my MBA from Texas State and my J.D from the University of Tulsa College of Law. I began my career as the Sports Tourism Specialist for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, then worked for the Texas Department of Economic Development as its Tourism Development Director before attending law school and working at my current job. I was elected to the Round Rock City Council in 2011 and served as Mayor Pro-Tem in 2016. I was honored and humbled to be elected Mayor in May of 2017.

What I like best about my job is: What I like best serving as a city council member and now as mayor, is that as a leader you can truly try to make a difference in citizens lives. It is my motivation every day to do what is best for our citizens. The many people I meet on a daily basis motivates me to do even more because of their passion and love for our city. I am thankful everyday to have this opportunity the citizens have entrusted me to do. I do not take this responsibility lightly.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Our former Mayor, Alan McGraw, told me do not try to be anyone or try to fill anyone's shoes that has come before you but be yourself. The people elected you because of who you are. Now lead.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Always do your best and do what is right. If you do that, then everything else will take care of itself.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Playing golf.

People would be surprised to know thatI lived in an orphanage in Germany for 9 months before being adopted by my loving American parents because of them I have been blessed with so many opportunities. I have a big heart for people who adopt children.

One thing I wish more people knew about Round Rock: How great our citizens are. WE roll our sleeves up to get things done. We help our neighbors in a time of need. No one cares who receives the recognition. We love our city and take pride in our city. Because of this, our city has received a number of best of cities awards. This does not happen by accident. I am proud to serve side by side with our citizens.
Montgomery County approves $76M for toll road project 
In a 3-2 vote, Montgomery County commissioners approved a resolution supporting a $76 million project to build 3.6 miles of Texas 249 toll road in the southwest area of the county. The commissioners, who also serve as the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority (MCTRA), are working with the Texas Department of Transportation to fund and build the second phase of the proposed Texas 249 toll road that will connect the portion in Harris County with the remaining 15-miles toll road in Montgomery County, which is also known as the Aggie Expressway. 

Texas 249 was originally Farm-to-Market Road 149, which was designated in 1988 as a state highway. The first six-mile portion of Texas Toll 249 in Harris County, known as the Tomball Tollway, opened in April 2015 and uses electronic toll tags rather than toll booths. Drivers have the option to use the feeder roads without paying the toll, on all of Texas Toll 249, including the portion in Montgomery County. Design work on the first phase of the toll road in Montgomery County should be completed by fall and MCTRA expects to seek bids in February 2018. Construction on the toll road should begin in April 2018 and be completed by December 2019.
Austin ISD approves 40 bond projects estimated to cost $990M 
Trustees for Austin Independent School District delayed a vote on a proposed $990 million bond election in November, but approved a budget that included 40 bond projects totaling $990 million. Board members said they expect to vote on the proposed November bond election at their meeting next week. 

The approved projects that will need bond funds to proceed include building a new high school campus on the east side, rebuilding four elementary schools, renovating and expanding another high school and relocating the Liberal Arts and Science Academy from its current location to another high school. The total bond package totals nearly $1.1 billion, but the district plans to use remaining funds from previous bonds and money from future land sales to bring down the total funding to $990 million. District officials have said that they can keep the tax rate flat if the bond package remains at $1 billion or less.
Texas A&M eyeing P3 to develop data center 
Texas A&M University System officials agreed to seek a public-private partnerships (P3) to help develop a data center on a 30-acre campus located on a former air force base in Bryan to host servers and back up information from organizations in Houston and Austin. Proposals for the project are due in July, noted Phillip Ray, vice chancellor for business affairs for the A&M system.  

The proposed data center in Bryan will be developed by a private company that will agree to lease the land, a plan very different from a recent unsuccessful effort by the University of Texas System to develop a data science campus on 300 acres in Houston that would have focused on data science in health, education and energy in addition to academic research and teaching, Ray said. While A&M System officials declined to provide an estimate of revenue the new data center in Bryan would generate, the center would focus on cloud storage and co-location services, where businesses could rent servers and hardware, but the center would offer some opportunities for participation by students and faculty, he added. The center should be attractive for organizations along the Texas Gulf Coast who wish to store their data away from the hurricane zone, Ray said.
Victoria to temporarily close golf course, seeks potential partnership
Victoria city officials agreed to close the city-owned Riverside Park Golf Course for at least two months while making a decision on how the city should handle the facility, which has been managed by the Victoria Parks Improvement Association. The association announced it will no longer lease and maintain the golf course as of July after accumulating debt for operating expenses that exceeded revenue. 

The golf course needs to be closed at least 60 days to restore healthy turf by removing fungus, mowing and irrigating the course while city officials work on an operational plan for the course, said City Manager Charmelle Garrett. She also urged council members to hire a consultant to produce a study with recommendations on how much fees should be charged to golfers using the course to cover the cost of operating the course. City officials also approved $48,000 to rent mowing equipment to improve the greens for the next six months. Private companies will be given the opportunity to bid on a contract to lease and operate the municipal golf course once council members make a decision on management and operations of the facility.
Grapevine approves design, renovation of sports complex
Grapevine City Council approved a contract with a design firm to provide engineering and architectural services for renovating and expanding the Oak Grove Ballfield Complex to attract more youth baseball and softball leagues and tournaments to the facility.  

The renovation of the sports complex includes adding covered stadium seating, installing net backstops, bullpens for each field, adding a playground, eight batting cages, a restroom and concession building, a maintenance building, expanded parking and a food court terrace area, said Kevin Mitchell, director of parks and recreation for the city. Plans also include building a connecting trail to an existing hike and bike trail, video streaming of games and a new restroom for a nearby boat ramp. A fourth grass field will also be added at the softball complex. In order to attract more baseball tournaments to the complex, plans also include removing grass from four baseball fields and replacing it with synthetic turf to allow the fields to remain playable during rain events rather than cancel because of wet fields, Mitchell said.
Calendar of Events

June 27
Government program managers, training managers, and all public sector staff interested in developing online training are invited to Tuesday's (June 27) complimentary webinar, beginning at 10 a.m., on developing effective elearning. 

Attendees will learn about critical roles that take training from information delivery to training that facilitates learning, produces behavior change, and maps to measurable outcomes. "Develop the Elearning Your Program Deserves-for the Training Results You Want," is presented by Microassist and sponsored by the Texas Department of Information Resources and the Federal Communicators Network. Register for the webinar here
July 12-14
Please visit the conference website to register. 

If your organization is interested in being a conference sponsor or exhibitor, please contact Texas Association of Regional Councils today!
Aug. 3-4
The 48th Annual Texas State Agency Business Administrator's Association (TSABAA) Summer Conference takes place Aug. 3 and 4 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Marcos Hotel Conference Center & Spa at 1001 E. McCarty Lane in San Marcos. 

Registration deadline for the conference is July 6 and the registration deadline for vendor partners is July 10. The two-day event, view agenda, fosters good working relationships and discussions between various state agencies and provides management and technical training for participating state employees. The conference will recognized the TSABAA Administrator of the Year and newly-retired state employees.  
Sept. 17-20
The Institute of Internal Auditors Southern Region Conference will take place from Sept. 17-20 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, located at 500 E 4th Street in Austin. The conference program offers attendees in the technology, state and local government, and medical industries cutting-edge, relevant information on core competencies and general audit, with new information on audit activities and industry hot topics. 

 Attendees will master the newest technical audit skills and enhance interpersonal soft skills, vital to the growth and success of both the audit department and the organization. Register early, before July 17, and save $100.
Nov. 13-15
The 14th Annual Texas Energy Summit-Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency Conference (CATEE) will be held November 13-15 at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center, 7121 Bishop Road. This premiere educational conference and business exhibition provides a venue to learn about state-of-the-art energy innovations with a focus on energy in Texas, and by reaching out to energy partners throughout the state. 

The Texas Energy Summit will provide you the opportunity to engage with industry experts, state and local policy makers, community and business leaders, researchers, facility and energy managers, design and development professionals, utility and energy service experts, and more in a lively conversation about cleaner air, a better built environment, and a new energy economy! Register here

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

It's true...Siri and Alexa copycats are coming soon to a governmental entity near every one of us. When it happens, it will be because public officials have found new ways to deliver citizen services. 

In putting creativity and innovation to the test with the objective of creating more efficient ways to respond to citizens while also cutting costs, the result will likely be computer programs with interactive digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa. 

Texas, like many other states, is taking a closer look at how all types of citizen services are delivered. The hope is that sometime soon residents will have direct access to state government services from any device, including portable devices, from any location at any time. The underlying concept is that a citizen-based portal can provide opt-in apps along with digital assistance much like people are already accustomed to using on their mobile devices.   

Dallas agrees to schedule $800M bond election
Dallas City Council members agreed to ask voters to approve $800 million in bonds in November with almost $500 million dedicated to improving streets and roads. Council members had discussed a $1.2 billion bond proposal, which is considered the city's bond capacity.  

After almost two hours of debate focusing on the need for more funding for senior programs, recreation centers and traffic signals, council members agreed to allot $170 million for parks and trails, $80 million for city facilities, $67 million to upgrade drainage and $65 million for housing and economic development on the bond ballot. The deadline for a final vote to schedule a November bond election is Aug. 9.
Killeen ISD to spend $300M for capital projects by 2021
Killeen Independent School District trustees plan to spend almost $300 million on capital improvement projects ranging from building a new high school to renovating existing campuses. The new high school scheduled to open in 2021 is expected to cost more than $135 million and a new elementary school scheduled to open in 2019 is estimated to cost $37 million, said Superintendent John Craft. 

Other projects include expanding a career center in 2020 at an estimated cost of about $20 million in addition to building a new $48 million football stadium and $54 million middle school in 2021, he said. District officials expect to begin the design process for the new high school this fall and should take about three years to complete construction.

Lake Travis ISD sets $235M bond election in November 
Board members for Lake Travis Independent School District scheduled a $235 million bond election on Nov. 7 to pay for facility upgrades. 

Trustees also agreed to add an additional $1.3 million to the total recommended by a bond committee because of passage of a new state law requiring school districts to have seat belts on all buses purchased after Sept. 1, said Johnny Hill, the assistant superintendent for business, financial and auxiliary services. Early voting for the election is scheduled to take place from Oct. 23 to Nov. 3.
Environmental clearance expected for causeway 
Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Pete Supulveda, expects to receive environmental clearance within 18 to 24 months to build a second causeway to South Padre Island. Efforts to secure the environmental clearance began about eight years ago and cost about $25 million, he said. 

The group filed the final draft document to the Federal Highway Administration and were able to identify some opportunities to save costs by reducing some of the environmental mitigation required by the agency. Once environmental clearance is obtained, the next step will be to secure funding for the second causeway, he added.

Study of Brownsville airport shows  $29.6M project could spur economic impact
A recent study indicates that building a new and larger terminal building at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport would result in a significant economic impact on the economy of Cameron County. 

The study, conducted by the Division of Research, Innovation and Economic Development, Data and Information Systems Center of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, predicted the proposed terminal project would produce an estimated $42.8 million economic impact on the county by creating 354 jobs that would generate $11.7 million in labor income and $1.7 million in state and local taxes. Brownsville city officials have supported plans to build a new terminal to attract more airlines to the airport, which is now served by two airlines. City officials also proposed lengthening two runways to handle larger aircraft and are planning to seek federal grants to help pay for the runway expansion.
Sugar Land approves design for Brazos Bend Park
The Sugar Land City Council approved a design contract for the Brazos River Park. This is the last project approved by voters in a $31.5 million bond vote in 2013 to build two new parks. Plans call for developing 128 acres of new parks along the Brazos River with a nearby festival site that connects with a network of almost 10 miles of hike and bike trails. 

The new park includes landscaping, lighting, irrigation, parking, road improvements, multi-use trails, a boat house and space for an annual dragon boat race that attracts thousands of visitors. The design process is expected to take about 10 months, but that timetable will depend on obtaining permits needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parkland and festival site opened earlier this year.
Austin group to build $20M charter school in Kyle
IDEA Public Schools of Austin announced plans to build a $20 million campus in Kyle to house 450 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade beginning in the fall of 2018. 

Plans call for the 110,000 square-foot facility to add up to 240 students each year to allow as many as 1,4000 students to enroll, said Larkin Tackett, vice president of community for the Austin office of IDEA, a non-profit corporation that was created 17 years ago. Based in Weslaco, IDEA has about 35,000 students enrolled in 61, tuition-free charter schools offering kindergarten through high school located primarily in South Texas and the Austin and San Antonio area.

Columbus seeks bids for $2.5M water project
Columbus City Council members agreed to request bids for both the equipment and for the construction of a water filtration project expected to cost about $2.5 million. Voters in 2016 approved $3 million to pay for the improvements to the water filtration system as part of a long term plan to upgrade the aging water system.

By purchasing the equipment directly, city officials expect to save paying the contractor a 35 percent additional cost charged to the city for that service, City Manager Donald Warschak said. Upgrading the water filtration system is the first phase of the city's plan to replace old iron and steel pipes with underground pipes on the east side of town in a later phase.
Bradshaw chosen as Maud ISD superintendent
Trustees for Maud Independent School District selected Chris Bradshaw as the lone finalist for superintendent. Once the required waiting period has expired, Bradshaw will replace Charlie Martin, who is retiring as superintendent. 

Most recently a high school principal for the Como-Pickton Consolidated School District, Bradshaw previously served as an athletic director. He has a master's degree in business administration.
Lake Dallas terminates contract of city manager
Lake Dallas City Council members terminated the contract of City Manager Matt Shaffstall, but agreed to allow him to remain on paid administrative leave until June 30. 

Council members also agreed to pay Shaffstall three months of severance pay and car allowance in addition to remaining on the health insurance plan during that period and receiving pay for his unused sick leave and vacation time earned while employed. Shaffstall began his job as city manager on Aug. 1, 2016.
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week: 

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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Kristin Gordon 
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