Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 43 - Friday, November 11, 2016
UT regents approve $392.2M for capital projects
The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved $392.2 million to fund nine capital projects at UT academic and health institutions. The money will come from Permanent University Fund (PUF) bonds to be used, for the first time, for cross-institutional facilities funding in an effort to break down operational silos and leverage system resources. 

The team of teams approach is part of Chancellor William H. McRaven's Quantum Leaps initiatives to increase the system's ability to provide the citizens of Texas the very best in higher education, research and health care. Regents also approved a nearly $60 million plan to advance Quantum Leap goals laid out by McRaven one year ago. 

William H. McRaven
"One of the pillars of this critical Quantum Leap is to develop UT System-wide service lines, starting with cancer and building upon the expertise and stellar reputation of UT MD Anderson," McRaven said. "Four separate collaborations are being developed between UT MD Anderson and sister UT entities, leveraging unique strengths at each institution." 

A cancer collaboration, funded with $45 million in PUF bonds, will be formed with UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, UT Health San Antonio, UT Health Northeast, UT Medical Branch in Galveston and UT Austin's Dell Medical School. The funds will be used to target the most critical needs at each facility. 

The remaining PUF funds will be used for new facilities. The following projects, with a combined projected cost of $778.2 million, are planned:
  • UT Austin Energy Engineering Building - $100 million in PUF funding with a total project cost of $160 million;
  • UT Dallas Math and Science Building - $89 million in PUF funding for a 175,000-square-foot building with a total projected cost of $101 million;


Education commissioner sends HISD notice of detachment
Mike Morath
Houston Independent School District voters rejected a proposition to send money to other school districts through recapture, also known as "Robin Hood," on Tuesday. Now the district is subject to detachment because it still owes a debt to the state school finance system for the funds. 

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath sent a letter to HISD trustees stating $18 billion in commercial property may be removed from the district's tax base in order to cover the debt. 

"As required by state law, school districts whose wealth level per weighted average student exceeds certain statutorily defined amounts are required to take a wealth equalization action," said Morath in the letter to trustees. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the vote against recapture could force state lawmakers to fix Texas' school finance system. Turner appeared in television ads opposing the measure leading up to the election.
Tri-agency workforce group issues recommendations
Three state agencies focused on workforce issued a joint report on how to better prepare the Texas workforce to compete in the 21st century economy. The Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Workforce Commission are part of Gov. Greg Abbott's Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, established by the governor in March to assess local economic activity, examine workforce challenges and opportunities and consider innovative approaches to meet the state's workforce goals. 

"Texans have always been hard working, driven, innovative and fiercely ambitious to achieve things tomorrow that don't exist today," said Abbott. "Our goal is to ensure that the next generation builds on that legacy and perpetuates the Texas brand of exceptionalism. I applaud the work of Commissioner Alcantar, Commissioner Morath and Commissioner Paredes on their efforts and look forward to working with them to address Texas' unique workforce needs." 

The joint reported recommended identifying statewide initiatives to make Texas the leader in targeted fields, strengthening educational instruction from pre-kindergarten through high school, building an ongoing partnership among the three agencies and others to align goals and identifying services for veterans. 

The full report is available here. It includes models for integrating P-12 education and higher education with technical workforce needs utilizing long-term partnerships among the agencies. 
Comptroller distributes $738M in monthly sales tax revenue
The Texas comptroller's office announced $737.9 million in local sales tax allocations for November will be sent to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts. The allocations, based on sales made in September, are 0.8 percent more than in November 2015. 

Cities will receive $486.4 million, up 0.9 percent from the previous year. Counties will receive 40.1 million, down 6.3 percent. Transit systems will receive $165.3 million, up 0.9 percent. Special purpose taxing districts will receive $46.1 million, up 7.1 percent.

Click here for more information.
Arlington approves $500M for new Texas Rangers stadium
Arlington voters approved $500 million in bonds to help build a $1 billion stadium for the Texas Rangers. The funding was part of an agreement to keep the baseball team in that city through 2053. 

The owners of the Rangers agreed to pay the remaining $500 million and any cost overruns for the stadium. City officials expect to use a .05 percent sales tax increase, revenue from hotel occupancy, car rental and ticket taxes and a maximum $3 parking tax to repay the bonds over the next 30 years. 

The new stadium is to be located on Randol Mill Road, adjacent to a new $250 million entertainment and hotel project partially owned by the Ranger organization.
Schertz, Seguin to build $66.5M water pipeline
Schertz City Council members approved an agreement with Seguin and the Schertz Seguin Local Government Corporation that permits the issue of $66.5 million in bonds to pay for building a second pipeline to secure a future water source for both cities. 

The partnership approved a $43.67 million low interest loan and a $22.83 million participation loan from the Texas Water Development Board to pay for a new water well field and pipeline system to produce an additional 5,000- to 6,000-acre-feet of water for the two cities.
Sunset Commission issues Railroad Commission decisions
Texas Sunset Advisory Commission members declined to change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas to the named proposed by the Sunset review panel, the Texas Energy Resources Commission. Sunset commissioners further rejected recommendations to transfer gas utility regulation to the Public Utility Commission, amend statutory bonding requirements and develop rules for issuing expedited penalties for minor violations 

Commissioners approved recommendations regarding enhanced requirements for reporting oil and gas production and violations, enforcing damage prevention requirements for interstate pipelines and creating a pipeline permit fee. A last-minute addition to the recommendations was also approved requiring the commission to incorporate findings of an ongoing seismic monitoring program into its regulation of disposal wells in an effort to prevent earthquakes.
TxDOT receives $285M federal loan to improve I-35E in Dallas
Texas Department of Transportation officials plan to use $285 million in federal loans through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to rebuild and expand a 28-mile section of Interstate 35 between Dallas and Denton. TIFIA was designed to encourage the use of technology in improving traffic flow in congested urban areas.

To be built in phases, the 35Express project is designed to use technology to improve the congested roadway between I-635 in Dallas to US380 in Denton. The first phase, which is expected to cost $1.4 billion and be completed in 2017, targets the northern portion of I-35 from Turbeville Road to US380 by adding additional general purpose lanes in each direction and two reversible priced lanes. The lanes will be priced according to demand and will shift direction during heavy traffic flow in peak travel times.

The second phase is expected to cost $3.4 billion and begin in five to ten years when more funding becomes available. The project will include new ramps and interchanges and eventually a new bridge over Lake Lewisville.
Laredo, Nuevo Laredo plan to expand World Trade Bridge
Laredo city officials won the support of officials from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, for a proposal to expand the World Trade Bridge which spans the border. A formal request to approve the project will be submitted to the Mexican government. The proposed plan calls for doubling the size of the bridge, which serves only commercial traffic, from eight lanes to 16 lanes.

"We're including a fast lane to go through the middle, traffic has to go and be processed, then general inspection. This fast lane will cut right through and cut 50 percent of the traffic that is waiting to get processed," said Assistant City Manager Robert Eads.
Texas Bond Package results are ready
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) has updated results for more than 40 bond elections in Texas. More than $5.2 billion in bond referendums were on the ballots in cities, school districts, community colleges and special districts throughout the state. SPI's research team has compiled the complete details in the 2016 Texas Bond Package report, which is ready for delivery. 

Some highlights include project details for: 
  • Eight cities, which passed $1.7 billion in bond issues for projects that include funding for streets, facilities economic development and other projects;
  • Two colleges, which passed $149 million in bond issues for campus improvements;
  • Eight counties, which passed $445 million in measures for new facilities and other projects;  
  • Eighteen school districts, which passed $2.6 billion for new facilities and improvements; and
  • More than $9 million in funding passed for ports and special districts. 

TxDOT plans to build highway to bypass downtown Ingleside
Texas Department of Transportation officials set a goal to begin construction in late 2018 or early 2019 on a new two-mile long industrial highway west of downtown Ingleside to prevent heavy truck traffic from traveling through the heavily-congested downtown area. 

Designed to withstand the heavy trucks and tankers that serve industrial areas near Ingleside, the proposed four-lane State Highway 200 (SH 200) is planned to connect with SH 361 just west of Farm-to-Market Road 1069. Funding for the project includes $8 million from TxDOT in addition to $2 million to $4 million from an area energy company to be applied to the SH 200 project. Once construction begins, the highway should be completed in 18 to 24 months.
Humble ISD, YMCA building $4.8M adaptive sports complex
Humble Independent School District officials and the YMCA of Greater Houston are partnering in a project to build an adaptive sports complex in Humble to provide a venue for children with disabilities and special needs to participate in sports. 

The fields, playgrounds, dressing rooms and other facilities will be designed to serve the estimated 125,000 students in the Houston area identified with special needs, said Mark Koenig, who co-chairs the Sports for All Campaign that is planning to raise $3.3 million in donations to help fund the facility. Features included in the complex are two baseball/multipurpose fields with synthetic turf that is cushioned to help players avoid injury, a barrier-free playground with ramps and a covered pavilion with modified basketball hoops, restrooms, a concession area and space to relax. 

School district officials are providing a site and infrastructure valued at $1.5 million for the complex and plan to use it during the week for physical education and integrated athletics. The YMCA will use the complex during weekends and for after-school programs.
Humble ISD considers bond vote to fund six new schools
Humble Independent School District officials are considering asking voters to approve bonds by 2018 to fund construction of six new schools and to upgrade existing campuses to meet rapid enrollment growth. 

Enrollment at the district is expected to increase from 41,000 students currently enrolled to 52,000 students in 2023. District officials are exploring the possibility of building six new schools, including a high school, two middle schools and three elementary schools if voters approve the bonds, said Roger Brown, Humble ISD assistant superintendent of support service.

TxDOT plans $195M expansion of State Highway 130
Texas Department of Transportation officials are planning a $195 million project to expand State Highway 130 between a 20.4-mile stretch of the toll road between Pflugerville and SH 71 in Austin. 

Preliminary plans call for expanding the toll road from four to six lanes with construction to begin by early 2018 and complete by late 2020. The additional lanes north of US 290 could be completed sooner.

To fund the project, TxDOT officials are tapping into a reserve account of the Central Texas Turnpike System. The toll system collected 30 percent higher revenues than originally projected for 2016.
Harrell named to lead SPI's small business program
Colby Harrell
Colby Harrell, a veteran member of the Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) consulting team, has been promoted to senior consultant and director of the firm's new Small Business Fast Track program.  

"Colby's public-sector experience at both the state and federal levels gives him a unique perspective on processes and public policy that will help create unique strategies for our Fast Track clients to pursue and capture government contracts," said Mary Scott Nabers, SPI president and CEO. 

Harrell will use his previous experience as a member of SPI's research team to assist companies just entering the government marketplace for the first time. He will also draw upon his experiences at institutions of higher education, in the nonprofit sector, on political campaigns and at the federal level of government while working for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The Fast Track program will feature service offerings built around consulting, training, certification, research and guidance. The program will include providing upcoming contracting opportunities, networking opportunities, sales coaching, public sector sales training, expert assistance with proposal preparation, political guidance and other individually-designed efforts to help increase sales revenues.

Allen approves design for $6.9M road project
Allen city council members approved a design contract for a $6.9 million project to improve Ridgeview Drive. Plans calls for building a four-lane roadway and a six-lane bridge over Cottonwood Creek.  

The connecting road will also provide a second required entrance to a new elementary school. School district officials contributed $45,000 to expedite the design process for the roadway.
Amarillo voters to set aside $5M for road fund
Voters in Amarillo approved creating an investment fund of about $89.5 million to fund street maintenance. 

The investment fund will be used over the next five years to address road maintenance and backlogged road projects. City staff members are working on a priority list of almost 30 street projects to be paid for using those bond funds. 

A $5.5 million project to improve Polk Street could begin as early as next year.

TxDOT explores options for expanding Loop 360 in Austin
Texas Department of Transportation officials are looking at as many as nine options for upgrading Loop 360 that links north and south Austin west of the city. A newly released study presented options ranging from making no improvements to creating a four-lane freeway with managed toll lanes and frontage roads to ease congestion along the heavily-traveled roadway. 

 Two options presented would create a limited access freeway estimated to cost between $576 million to $600 million and would require reconfiguring the Pennybacker Bridge. The study noted the other options could be performed incrementally, could be more easily funded and would not disrupt traffic as much as the two more expensive options.
Amanda Lavin, Assistant Executive Administrator, Texas Water Development Board
Amanda Lavin
Career highlights and education: I joined the TWDB in 1999 and currently serve as the Assistant Executive Administrator involved in the day-to-day operations of the agency. I've worked in various roles for the agency relating to public financing of infrastructure projects. Most recently, my focus has been on implementation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. Prior to joining the TWDB, I was a financial advisor to political subdivisions in the Austin and Houston areas, structuring and implementing the financing of tax-exempt securities through both municipal market sales and state funding. I also worked in the corporate trust area, specializing in public finance. I am a former licensed securities agent and studied computer science at Brookdale College in New Jersey. 

What I like best about my job is: Working with our communities and being able to help them accomplish their goals with the programs we have here at the TWDB. Our customers work very hard to provide for their residents and it's very satisfying when we can help them with their projects.  

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Always remember why we are here - for our customers. 

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Always remember why we are here - and never lose the 3 E's: Enthusiasm, Energy and Excellence! 

If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: Out on my back porch watching the deer gather and enjoying the quiet time. 

People would be surprised to know that I: Am not a native Texan (despite the great accent) but got here as soon as I could. 

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: Is the unique dedication of our staff here at the TWDB. We are passionate about water, and it can be seen in every element of the services we provide. We have numerous resources available to the public, and our staff is always eager to talk about them. We are always looking for ways to fit our customers' needs with our services.

Calendar of Events

Nov. 16, 2016
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas offers one-day seminars in cooperation with the Office of the Texas Attorney General. This course has been approved by the Office of the Attorney General as meeting the requirements for open government training for public officials. The Nov. 16 Open Government Seminar will be held in Denton. Register here.

Dec. 19-21, 2016
The Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency (CATEE) Conference is an educational conference and business exhibition connecting public and private decision makers and thought leaders. Its purpose is to help communities improve decisions that determine the energy and water intensity of the built environment, learn from examples and seek alternative renewable energy sources - and reduce related emissions. The 2016 CATEE Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio. Register here.

Jan. 23-25, 2017
The Water for Texas 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas, will showcase innovative scientific, planning and financial solutions to water challenges; interactive data and technology; and compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. Panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits will offer the opportunity to network and engage with industry leaders, elected officials and TWDB Board members and staff. A conference agenda is available. Register here.
Feb. 27-March 1, 2017
The 2017 Public-Private Partnership Conference in Dallas provides attendees with education, networking opportunities and guidance to help public leaders successfully partner with the private sector to deliver and improve needed infrastructure. Join industry experts and practitioners to explore the advantages, limitations, considerations and opportunities for P3 investment in infrastructure in the United States. Register here.
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Ask any young student about the importance of technology and they all know the answer. Ask any economist how important technology is in the struggle for global economic viability and the answers will all be the same.

Technology will impact the future for individuals, government, businesses, health care, public safety, education and every country on the planet.

It would be hard to find any individual or organization that disagrees. Yet, a recent report tells us that almost a third of the nation's public universities are experiencing information technology (IT) budget cuts. How can that be? What is more important? Who is making these decisions?

In a survey of chief information officers and senior IT officers in more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, 63 percent of the respondents said IT funding is lagging and has never recovered from the Great Recession. Some reported that not only had their budgets for the current and coming year been cut, but they have also been forced to absorb mid-year cuts. One-third of those budget cuts reported were from public universities. What are budget writers thinking?

Texas A&M system considers Corpus Christi-Kingsville merger
Texas A&M University System officials are considering merging Corpus Christi and Kingsville university systems. Regents were briefed on a plan in which both Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville would remain open. However, administration, student services and athletic programs could be combined. 

Regents, if they intend to move forward with the plan, would need to approve a resolution stating their wishes before upcoming Texas legislative session.
Niven named superintendent at Allen ISD
Scott Niven was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent at Allen Independent School District. Once the required 21-day waiting period is over and his contract finalized, Niven will replace former Superintendent Lance Hindt, who resigned to serve as superintendent for Katy ISD. 

 Currently superintendent at Red Oak ISD, Niven also was superintendent at Liberty-Eylau ISD and an assistant superintendent and teacher for Texarkana ISD. He also is a certified public accountant and was employed by a private accounting firm.

 Niven has a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas, a master's degree from the satellite campus of Texas A&M University in Texarkana and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Jasper ISD selects Hudson as new superintendent
Gerald Hudson
Jasper Independent School District trustees selected Gerald Hudson as the new superintendent. 

Currently an area director for Garland ISD, he has worked in education since 1997. He was previously a principal at Lakeview Centennial High School. Hudson will replace Richard Skuza, who resigned from the Jasper school district earlier this year.
Bryan eyeing 60-acre site for youth sports complex
Bryan city officials are considering the purchase of 60 acres of land in northwest Brazos County to build a new youth sports complex to host football, baseball, softball and soccer games.

A proposed plan for the facility calls for using revenue from the hotel occupancy tax to pay for the youth complex. Officials said the complex would host sports tournaments that will attract visitors to the area.

Castro named superintendent at Edgewood ISD
Emilio Castro Jr.
Emilio P. Castro Jr. was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent at Edgewood Independent School District. He was selected from three finalists interviewed by trustees and will replace the interim superintendent, Dr. Sylvester Perez.

Now a deputy superintendent for San Antonio ISD, Castro has 20 years of experience in public education. He also was a superintendent for Kingsville ISD.
Round Rock ISD presents plans for $150 million high school
Round Rock Independent School District officials presented plans for a new $150 million high school at a recent school board workshop. A 750-seat auditorium would account for $20 million of the costs for the school the district plans to build on Pearson Ranch Road. 

The proposed 481,513-square-foot high school will be the sixth high school in the district. Before construction can begin, officials must win approval of bonds to fund the project. Board members plan to decide in February on whether to schedule a bond election in May 2017.

Lubbock exploring $91M hotel project
Lubbock City Council members are studying a recommendation by the Central Business District tax increment financing board to utilize a public-private partnership (P3) to build a new $91 million hotel near the civic center. 

The proposed 300-bed hotel with parking would serve both the civic center and a new performing arts center and help revitalize the downtown area, said Robert Taylor, chair of the Central Business District board.
County, mobility authority urge TxDOT to speed up US 271
North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority board members and Gregg County commissioners have approved resolutions asking the Texas Department of Transportation to speed up improvements proposed for US 271 through Gregg County to the Oklahoma state line. 

TxDOT officials are planning upgrades to US 271 from Tyler to Mount Pleasant and on to Paris as part of its Hourglass Project, a half figure eight-shaped stretch of tolled highway linking Tyler, Marshall and Longview. The section of road that is the subject of the resolutions is the only section of the Hourglass Project expected to be free from tolls.

Sunset Valley increases sales tax to improve police facilities
Voters in Sunset Valley approved a .08 percent increase in sales tax that is dedicated to pay for new police department facilities.  

The increase is expected to generate about $400,000 a year for improvements, said City Administrator Clay Collins. City council members are reviewing schematics and design for the new police department facilities.
Buda reviewing plans for new city park
Buda City Council members are reviewing preliminary plans a new city park to be funded by $8 million in bonds approved by voters in November 2014.

The preliminary plans for the new 40-acre John D. and Byrd Mims Garison Memorial Park include trails, a site to launch canoes and kayaks, a zip-line, a ropes course, climbing boulders and a nature center.

Pearland considering plans to renovate city buildings
Pearland City Council members are expected to select one of four options to renovate the 30-year-old city hall and 34-year-old annex building after postponing a decision last month. 

Council members previously expressed support for the second most expensive option, at $6.124 million, that would upgrade the electrical system, plumbing and mechanical systems. That option does not include a building envelope that would separate the interior of the building from the exterior, which would have to be addressed in the future. City officials plan to issue $1.1 million in certificates of obligation and use funding left over from the issue of previous bonds and certificates of obligation.
Options requested for MoKan corridor
Williamson County and Round Rock officials asked the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to launch a study on possible uses of a 28-mile stretch of abandoned railroad track from Georgetown to East Austin known as the MoKan corridor. 

Both jurisdictions passed resolutions in support of the study seeking to ensure the abandoned rail corridor is preserved and protected for future use. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad operated the rail line from 1904 to 1976. 

The Texas Department of Transportation owns the abandoned rail corridor that was to be part of the failed Lone Star Rail project, leaving the future unclear for the rail line that runs from Texas 45 to Westinghouse Road.
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week:  
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

Athens approves contract for water system model
Athens City Council members approved a contract with an engineering firm to build a model of the city's water system to help city officials make more informed decisions. Pinpointing problem areas in the water system will assist city officials in deciding which are priority projects to pursue in protecting the city's water supply. 

The proposed study will include information on the condition, size and location of pipes. As part of the city's $12.8 million capital improvement plan, council members allotted $198.000 to pay for the water model.
Sweeney to upgrade water system
Sweeny City Council members agreed to issue almost $2 million in certificates of obligation to fund upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, install new water lines and improve other infrastructure. Council members are expected to finalize the issue of the certificates of obligation in December.
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Michael Guyton, Mansfield, Small Business Assistance Advisory Task Force;

  • Tina C. Mims, Little Elm, Small Business Assistance Advisory Task Force;

  • Jay Zeidman, Houston, Small Business Assistance Advisory Task Force;

  • Clayton Black, Stanton, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • James Jeffries, Georgetown, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Jamie Wickliffe, Midlothian, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Alejandro Sostre-Odio, San Antonio, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Joyce Yannuzzi, New Braunfels, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Chance Bolton, Bee Cave, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Tony Peña, Lubbock, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Martha Reid, El Paso, Texas Appraiser Licensing And Certification Board;

  • Milton R. Gutierrez, Fort Worth, Texas State Board Of Plumbing Examiners;

  • Dale Morton, Nacogdoches, Angelina And Neches River Authority Board Of Directors;

  • John "Skip" Ogle, Tyler, Angelina And Neches River Authority Board Of Directors;

  • Francis Spruiell, Center, Angelina And Neches River Authority Board Of Directors
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

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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: Priscilla Loebenberg 
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 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.   
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