Volume 21, Issue 2 - January 13, 2023

A vibrant, well-funded new marketplace that should be monitored
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.

A somewhat overlooked marketplace in years past is now one that should be monitored regularly. Billions of dollars in federal funding, designated specifically for tribal lands, are flowing to Native American communities throughout the U.S. and, projects of all sizes and types are ready to launch in 2023.

The feverish levels of investment in tribal communities began with COVID funding. Then, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) sent billions more to native tribal lands. The trend continues and the funding has supported more than 3,000 projects in the last several years. Hundreds of additional projects for affordable housing, health care facilities, broadband, water and workforce development are planned. More than 2.6 million tribal citizens throughout the country will benefit from projects such as these.

The horizon for tribal infrastructure continues to be bright. Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) yielded another $13 billion in set-asides for tribal communities and the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act appropriated billions more for tribal infrastructure.


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Kalita Humphreys Theater master plan proposes $300M for restorations

The Dallas Theater Center has released a project master plan that provides $300 million to restore the Kalita Humphreys Theater and redeveloping the 10-acre park surrounding it. The plan suggests that funding would come from the city and fundraising.  

The majority of funds, $168 million, would build four new buildings in William B. Dean Park along with new, smaller theaters, courtyards, plazas, walkways, a restaurant and café.  

Restoring the Kalita Humphreys Theater has a price tag of $52 million and a 380-space underground parking garage would be built at a cost of $22 million. Adding a pedestrian bridge on the grounds to connect the nearby Katy Trail and Turtle Creek totals $10 million, and another $56 million would support the land purchases and nearby trail improvements.  

If city officials approve the plan the theater director would like to see a request for some of this funding in the city’s proposed 2024 bond package.  

The Dallas Theater Center is scheduled to present the master plan to a City Council committee on Jan. 17 and the Park and Recreation board the following week. It could go before the City Council for a decision on final approval later in the year. 

(Photo: Kalita Humphreys Theater. Courtesy of the City of Dallas.)

Texas universities request $1B, propose 2-year tuition freeze

Chancellors from the six largest public university systems in Texas have asked legislators to allocate approximately $1 billion to higher education. Their request was delivered with a promise to freeze tuition rates for undergraduate students for the next two years if the funding is allocated to them.

In a signed letter, the chancellors requested a $352 million increase for instruction, buildings and research. They also requested $80 million for regional universities to provide additional services to at-risk students and help them graduate. Another $276 million was requested to fund employee health insurance. Currently, the state covers less than 80% of health insurance coverage for higher education employees.

The request also included additional funding for the Hazlewood Legacy Program which provides tuition for veterans and their families. In 2021, the state reimbursed only 13% of approximately $176 million in waived tuition. This year, the Chancellor’s asked the state to fully reimburse the program at an estimated $276 million. State funding for course credit hours has been on the decline since 2008 and student tuition and fees have continued to rise to cover costs.

Texas Comptroller releases healthy Biennial Revenue Estimate

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Jan. 9 released his office’s Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) ahead of the 88th Legislature that convened Jan. 10.  

The BRE predicts a record $188.2 billion in revenue for the next biennium (2024-2025) and a $32.7 billion surplus from the 2022-2023 biennium. The $188.2 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending during the 2024-2025 biennium is a 26.3% increase from the previous biennium. 

Of the total, $10.2 billion from 2024-2025 oil and natural gas taxes must be reserved and transferred to the Economic Stabilization Fund (the state's Rainy Day Fund) and the State Highway Fund. Another $155 million must also be used to cover a shortfall in the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan, known as the Texas Tomorrow Fund. Absent any legislative appropriations, the Rainy Day Fund balance is expected to total a record $27.1 billion at the end of the 2024-25 biennium. 

Hegar projected the state will have $342.3 billion of available “all funds” revenue in the next biennium. This includes approximately $108.4 billion in federal receipts, along with $68 billion in other income and revenues dedicated for specific purposes and therefore unavailable for general-purpose spending. 

Sales tax collections are the state’s largest source of general revenue-related funds. Revenue is predicted to reach $87.9 billion in 2024-2025. The largest source of general fund revenue would come from sales taxes collected from oil production, projected to generate $13.3 billion. Motor vehicle-related taxes, including sales, rental and manufactured housing taxes, are expected to generate the next highest amount of $12.7 billion. Franchise tax collections are projected to generate $8.8 billion, and natural gas tax collections are predicted to reach $8.6 billion.  

According to the comptroller’s office, the final ending balance for the 2024-25 biennium, and beginning balance for the next, will be determined by what budget actions the 88th Legislature takes and by actual revenue collections during the remainder of the fiscal year. 

Saluting Texas Lone Stars

Daniel Guajardo

Chief Inspector General

Texas Juvenile Justice Department

Public career highlights and education: I’ve been fortunate to have a few career highlights, being appointed as the Chief Inspector General is of course one of them, but in my previous job at the Texas Attorney General’s Office I led a team of investigators who seized and had forfeited to the state of Texas, a 1,700-acre ranch in West Texas being used to abuse children. The one accomplishment I am most proud of is mentoring and guiding younger law enforcement professionals to advance their formal education and seek leadership challenges. I obtained my master's degree in Criminal Justice Management and Leadership from Sam Houston State University and gradated from the prestigious Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas Leadership Command College. 

What I like best about my public service is: The intrinsic feeling, motivation and satisfaction of working to make Texas safer. Sam Houston State University’s motto sums it up the best for me: “The measure of a life is its service.” 

The best advice I’ve received is: The one piece of advice given to me long ago as a youth infantry sergeant was to “do what you say you are going to do when supporting your soldiers, be honest, fair and the calmest person in the room.”

People might be interested to know that: I grew up for the first years of life in low income housing, I’ve stood in government cheese lines as a child and used food stamps to buy groceries. I saw the value in education and serving in those early years which lead me to join the military. Before joining law enforcement, I attended college to become an interpreter for the deaf but started as police officer before graduating. Also, I collect vintage carpentry hand planes. It is a small collection which I occasionally still use. Recently, my staff gifted me one inscribed with the words “Details Matter” because details do matter in the investigative environment in order to find the truth and facts to tell the complete story.

One thing I wished more people knew about the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is: The population served by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) is the most challenging group of incarcerated youth in the state of Texas. Even with this unique service population there are dedicated public servants working to change the life trajectory of these young men and women for the betterment of Texas. This is not an easy job working in the juvenile correctional field, but those who do, are demonstrating in practice, the motto “The measure of a life is its service.” In addition, the dedicated staff of the Inspector General’s Office are here to do the important work of keeping the system safe for both the youth and staff by conducting criminal and abuse investigations when needed. Overall there are good people working in TJJD who impact change and grow productive Texans.  

RCC releases well plugging map,efforts continue

The Railroad Commission (RRC) released an interactive map that shows ongoing orphan well plugging projects by county. The wells, which can leak methane, toxic water and chemicals into their surroundings, are prioritized by potential public safety and environmental risks. 

So far, the agency has plugged 128 wells using $25 million in initial funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the plan is to plug 800 orphaned wells by the end of August. Texas will receive $82.6 million in the first allocation of funding directed to well plugging, bringing the current total funding to $107.6 million.

The cost to plug all of the state’s abandoned oil and gas wells would be approximately $482 million. There are 7,400 wells that need attention and based on data estimations from the Department of the Interior, Texas may be eligible for $344 million for well plugging.

The Department of the Interior is expected to finalize formula grant guidance for the well plugging projects later this year. The RRC will then post request for qualifications solicitations at a later date. 

(Photo: Well plugging in Refugio County. Courtesy of RRC.Texas.gov.)

Consulting firm to assist with progression of Panther Island

The city of Fort Worth has selected a consulting firm to serve as the project manager for the Panther Island/Central City Flood Control project. The firm will be tasked with performing case studies, reviewing existing plans, creating a development strategy and identifying potential funding sources. The firm also will research the value of approximately 440 acres of land surrounding the Panther Island project.

The city envisions that this project could double the size of the downtown.  

The Panther Island project will eventually transform about 340 acres into a core district with walkable retail and commercial space and canals. The project started as a plan for flood control nearly two decades ago but grew to a $1.1 billion price tag with plans for housing developments, office space and entertainment venues. The idea was to mimic San Antonio's River Walk. 

Panther Island got a green light in January 2022 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated $403 million toward construction of a new 1.5-mile river channel and other flood-mitigation work. The river’s new layout will create two islands along North Main Street with restaurants, shopping, nightlife and multifamily residential buildings. An envisioned 10,000 housing units and three million square feet of commercial, retail, and educational space will make it possible for residents to live near the river. 

Much of the land on the future Panther Island is owned by the Tarrant Regional Water District, which is coordinating the flood-control portion of the project. 

(Photo: Panther Island Property. Courtesy of PantherIslandDCC.com.)

$450K budgeted for Boeye Reservoir feasibility Study

The city of McAllen will conduct a $450,000 feasibility study on the Boeye Reservoir. The City Commission expects the study will provide more information about potential development options. The intention of the project is to drain the reservoir which is located on prime commercial property. 

The reservoir is among the largest pieces of underdeveloped land with highway access in McAllen and the city is ready to move forward with plans for a mixed-use development. The development could include restaurants, retailers, a boardwalk, commercial space and different types of residential buildings. Proposal options include an Amazon Fulfillment Center and a commercial development with a water feature. The city is also considering partnering with a private developer and keeping part of the property for public amenities.

The feasibility study will provide the City Commission with more information about the property itself, which needs to undergo an environmental study, the cost of filling the reservoir and installing utilities and development options.

(Photo: Boeye Reservoir. Courtesy of Rio Grande Valley.)

City of Allen awarded advance TxDOT funding

The city of Allen will receive a Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Designed to improve safety and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries, the grant will fund improvements at 11 intersections. 

Those include: 

  • Alma Drive and Hedgcoxe Road.
  • Alma Drive and Comanche Drive.
  • Bethany Drive and Malone Road.
  • Exchange Parkway and Andrews Parkway.
  • Greenville Avenue and Ridgemont Drive.
  • Greenville Avenue and Bethany Drive.
  • Hedgcoxe Road and Duchess Drive.
  • McDermott Road and Watters Road.
  • Stacy Road and Andrews Parkway.
  • Stacy Road and Chelsea Boulevard.
  • Stacy Road and Watters Road. 

The City Council also approved an Advance Funding Agreement with TxDOT for landscape and scenic element additions to the Allen Gateway Project, located at Allen Drive and U.S. 75 interchange. Phase 1 is nearly complete and phase 2 will include landscaping surrounding the new interchange and a new pedestrian fence on the existing overpass. The funding amount will be determined after the design plans are complete. 

Lake Travis ISD new elementary school construction begins, plans for athletics bond

Thanks to the passage of two propositions in November for $602 million, Lake Travis ISD (LTISD) will begin construction on Elementary School No. 8 in January. School officials have also purchased land for High School No. 2 and are searching for land for Elementary School No. 9. 

While Proposition A for $548.41 million in facilities and Proposition B for $60.79 million in technology may have passed in the November election, Proposition C for $93.8 million in athletics spending failed. In response, the district plans to reconvene the LTISD Long Range Facilities Committee in the spring. They will discuss a potential November bond for the measures that did not pass. 

Some of the projects included in Proposition C included stadium renovations and upgrades, tennis courts, football stadium and track, women’s and men’s field house additions and turf and track surface replacements.

Broadband map provides insight into funding needs

The Texas Broadband Development Map was released Jan. 12. The Texas map is an interactive tool that identifies areas of the state that are eligible for funding broadband expansion projects as defined by state law. An area is eligible for funding when less than 80 percent of serviceable locations have access to internet at speeds of 25 megabits per second (mbps) downstream and 3 mbps upstream. This mirrors the eligibility definition presented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  

The Comptroller’s Texas Broadband Development Office (BDO) established the map to show coverage at various speeds. The BDO held broadband workshops last year in communities across the state and learned that to be truly competitive, communities need internet that is faster than the FCC’s definition of high-speed broadband. Reliability also was a constant concern for certain types of technology, so the map shows what technology is available in each area. 

The map will be updated biannually to incorporate additional information and data gathered by the BDO.  

Pearland prepares for May bond election

Last month, Pearland’s Citizens Drainage Bond Advisory Committee presented 14 drainage projects equaling $106.7 million to the Pearland City Council. City leaders are moving forward to finalize their plans to call for a drainage bond election in May.

The highest priority drainage projects include an $11 million improvement project for Veterans Drive, a $10 million improvement project improvements from McLean Road to Highway 35, and $14.4 million in improvements to the Shady Crest and Creek View subdivisions. In a Jan. 9 meeting, the council discussed additional potential projects, including facility, street and park improvements. Project selections will be finalized in the Jan. 23 City Council meeting. At the same meeting, the council could present a resolution to order the bond elections as early as Feb. 13.

If the bond passes, design contracts will be awarded starting in July and bond sales will begin summer 2024. 

Brownsville hires Ramirez as city manager

The Brownsville City Commission has selected Helen Ramirez as the new city manager.

She previously served as executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation from February 2021 until stepping down last July to become interim city manager. She took the place of Noel Bernal, the former city manager.

Trevino appointed to TWC

Albert Trevino has been appointed to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The commission is charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers in Texas.

Trevino is a retired patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol. He also served as a police instructor, background investigator and patrol officer for the Harlingen Police Department. Trevino has nearly 33 years of combined law enforcement and border patrol experience.

Tayon serves another term with DIR

Jeffrey Tayon will continue to serve on the governing board of the Department of Information Resources (DIR) after being reappointed by the governor. His term is set to expire on Feb. 1, 2027.

DIR coordinates, monitors and directs information resources management within state government. Tayon is an independent investor focusing on commercial real estate development and management. 

Prosper selects new town manager

The Prosper Town Council has selected Mario Canizares as the new town manager. Canizares has served as city manager since 2020 for the city of Nacogdoches. 

Prior to this role, he served as both deputy and assistant city manager for the city of Denton and deputy city manager for the city of Coppell, as well as assistant city manager for the city of Addison. Canizares will officially begin his role as town manager on Feb. 20.

Cedillo promoted to Brownwood district engineer

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has approved Greg Cedillo as the Brownwood district engineer.

Cedillo was formerly the director of construction since 2017 for the Fort Worth District. Prior to that he was named South Tarrant County area engineer. Cedillo, who began his career with TxDOT in 1999, started his new position on Jan. 1.


Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from Jan. 6 through Jan. 12:

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

Kevin Lilly - Houston

James Beauchamp - Midland

Commission on State Emergency Communications

Edwina Lane - Ector

Nueces River Authority

Elizabeth Perez Aliseda - Beeville

Ross Cansino - George West

Allan P. Bloxsom, III - Uvalde (reappointed)

Texas State Technical College System

Robb J. Misso - Cedar Park

Texas Military Preparedness Commission

Michael Bob Starr - Abilene

Todd Fox - Belton

Teacher Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees

Brittny Allred - Dallas

Elvis Williams - Fair Oaks Ranch

John Elliott - Austin (reappointed)

Office of Community-Based Care Transition

George Cannata - Fort Worth

Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission

Ira Mitzner - Houston

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