Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 40 Friday, October 13, 2017
Changes in Gov. Abbott's administration
Luis Saenz
In September, Gov. Greg Abbott announced changes to his senior staff as the transition to the interim and preparations for the 2019 legislative session begin to take place. Abbott's Chief of Staff, Daniel Hodge, will be transitioning to the private sector and will be replaced by Luis Saenz, who prior to his most recent position as founder of a public affairs firm, served as Abbott's appointments director. Jay Dyer, Abbot's former legislative director, has taken a position in the government affairs department at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Personnel who will be changing positions include Steven Albright, who will transition from budget director to Abbott's senior adviser for the state. Reed Clay will transition from deputy chief of staff to chief operating officer and Matt Hirsch, currently Abbott's communication director, will also assume the title of deputy chief of staff. 

There are also several new members of Abbott's administration. Former Sen. Tommy Williams, who most recently was with Texas A&M University, will be Abbott's fiscal adviser. John Colyandro, most recently with the Texas Conservative Coalition, will be a senior adviser. Peggy Venable, most recently with Americans for Prosperity, will be Abbott's appointments director. Capitol staffer and lobbyist, Walter Fisher, has been named legislative director, and Sarah Hicks, most recently the assistant vice chancellor and director of state relations at the Texas A&M University System, will serve as Abbott's budget director. Staff changes took effect at the beginning of October.
When a natural disaster occurs, state, county and city leaders must assess the damage and also do a head count of residents that may have lost food, water and shelter. Operations, plans and projects are put into place and state agencies begin requesting waivers and assistance at the federal level. For Texans, that natural disaster is Hurricane Harvey. 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has overseen the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As of Oct. 11, HHSC has provided more than $467 million in benefits and processed more than 440,000 applications from households for D-SNAP assistance, according to HHSC Chief Press Officer Carrie Williams. "We had more than 1,000 employees volunteer to travel to the affected areas and help stand up D-SNAP sites," said Williams. "The feedback we've received is overwhelmingly positive. Our staff have big hearts and were happy to help families face-to-face. It's incredibly rewarding for them, many of them victims of the storm themselves. The work we do is incredibly worthwhile, and we had staff members working round the clock to get benefits out the door."

Benefits of D-SNAP are issued to eligible applicants within 72 hours, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This helps speed assistance to disaster victims and reduces the administrative burden on state agencies operating in post-disaster conditions. Immediately following Hurricane Harvey, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services approved HHSC's request to operate D-SNAP in counties that were impacted by the hurricane.
 
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Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Jeff Cheney, Mayor, City of Frisco
Jeff Cheney

Career highlights and education: Cheney served on Frisco City Council  from 2007 - 2016. In the last ten years, he has served as the Chair of Frisco's Budget and Audit Committee, as Member of the Mayor's Youth Council Liaison, Frisco Technology Committee and Frisco Education Foundation. Cheney was chosen five times by his colleagues on Frisco City Council to be Mayor Pro Tem and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem. Cheney has earned the distinction of Certified Public Accountant and a Registered Financial Advisor. Cheney earned a bachelor's and master's degree in accounting from The University of Texas - Austin.

What I like best about my public service: Meeting new people and being able to help our residents in meaningful ways.

The best advice I've received for my current roll is: Not to govern to the vocal minority.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Always remember who you work for, the citizens of Frisco.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Playing  one of my kids video games.

People would be surprised to know thatDo yoga every morning. 

One thing I wish more people knew about the city of Frisco: We are ready to go after major corporate relocations.
Killeen ISD reviews $586M worth of future facilities
The Killeen Independent School District has a 10-year Strategic Facility Plan that adds up to $586 million in construction costs. The future projects were discussed at a recent KISD Board of Trustees workshop. An elementary school totaling $37 million would open for the 2019-2020 school year. According to KISD Superintendent John Craft, decisions would need to be made in the early portion of 2018 to have an elementary school completed by fall 2019. 

Construction of three more elementary schools that total $146 million would have opening dates of 2022, 2025 and 2028. A middle school estimated at $54 million is projected to open for the 2020-2021 school year. Another $70 million middle school is proposed to open in the fall of 2026. A new high school, listed as a facility to be considered for the future, would cost an estimated $173 million. Other projects being considered for the future would include the expansion of the KISD Career Center and an ag-science barn. All construction projects would need to be approved by the KISD Board of Trustees before moving forward. The school district is also considering a bond election in either November 2018 or May 2019.
Renovation estimates total $38M for San Antonio City Hall
San Antonio City Council members were briefed this week by city officials on a plan to renovate city hall beginning in August. In March, an inspection showed that the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the building are out-of-date and not in compliance with current city building codes. A slideshow of the 52,000-square-foot building highlighted mildew, old fuse panels, unsealed penetrations of floors and ceilings, corroded iron pipes, cracks in the facade and interior cracking. 

The proposal, estimated to cost $38 million, would be funded through certificates of obligation. City hall needs new mechanical and plumbing systems, improved fire suppression, new elevators and windows, better drainage and electrical updates. The current occupants of the building would be relocated, possibly to the Frost Tower, during the 15-month renovation.
Montgomery County seeks federal funding to examine watersheds
Montgomery County commissioners have agreed to seek federal funding to examine county watersheds, including Cypress Creek, Spring Creek, Preach Creek, Caney Creek, Lake Creek, the west fork of the San Jacinto and others. County commissioners discussed the issue this week and agreed unanimously to have County Judge Craig Doyal send a request to United States Rep. Kevin Brady for federal funding for the study and any projects needed as a result. 

According to Doyal, Montgomery County needs to do all it can to see whether additional reservoir projects could help reduce the devastating impact of flooding the county has suffered three times in the past two years. According to Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Darren Hess, 4,793 Montgomery County homes were affected by Harvey, eclipsing previous damage totals, including the 1994 flooding. Estimates show $1.25 million would be needed to study the issue and an additional $95.5 million for the project phase.
Brownsville ISD looking to expand performance venue and gym
Brownsville Independent School District trustees approved an 11 1/4 cent tax increase in July that will generate about $24 million per year, which the district plans to use to leverage about $100 million in loans. All of the projects would be paid off in 10 years according to projections. Trustees also approved the sale of $53 million in Maintenance Tax Notes on Dec.12 to finance $49.7 million for roofing maintenance, canopies, parking lots and HVAC improvements. 

There are also plans for initial funding of $35 million for a new performing arts center and $10 million for a new gymnasium at Hanna Early College High School. Preliminary estimates for the performing arts center were $60 million and it is expected to be financed through lease-revenue bonds and a public-private partnership. The Hanna gym also would be financed through lease-revenue bonds. The bonds for the two projects are projected to be issued during the first quarter of 2018.
Smith County approves five-year capital improvement plan
The Smith County Commissioners Court approved a five-year capital improvements plan, 2018 to 2022, following a study completed by an architectural firm. The plan, that could be changed as needs evolve, shows a total cost of $2.3 million over the five-year period for repairs to the Cotton Belt Building. The structure sits at 75 percent vacant and replacing windows is a high priority at $650,000. Potential income from new tenants could offset the costs of repairs. 

The Road and Bridge Building is also in need of work with $700,000 to be spent per year for two years that includes additional operations space for shops and repair bays. The plan also includes $900,000 for the Smith County Courthouse Annex Building for new chillers and about $500,000 in work scheduled for the Smith County Jail to finish up HVAC and shower facilities. The report also included several properties which could be sold to offset costs.
Corpus Christi engineers estimate $2M to repair damaged jetties
Jetties along the Packery Channel were severely damaged when Hurricane Harvey produced a six-foot storm surge on Padre Island. City engineers estimate that the hurricane caused $2 million worth of damage. The jetties- long, narrow structures that protect a coastline from the currents and tides- were hit the hardest when water rushed back through the channel and out to the Gulf. 

The city of Corpus Christi plans to see what insurance will cover before applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. If that is not enough, then the city will look to the reserve funds. There is no time frame for when the channel will be repaired.
Morath to adjust ADA for school districts due to natural disaster
Mike Morath
The Texas Education Code provides Education Commissioner Mike Morath the authority to adjust the average daily attendance (ADA) of a school district in which a disaster, flood, extreme weather condition, fuel curtailment or other situation that has a significant effect on the district's attendance. Several school districts or certain campuses were forced to close for several days or weeks. 

This would be a funding issue for school districts since the ADA is a major component in determining Foundation School Program (FSP) funds. The loss of ADA during the 2017-2018 school year means a loss of FSP funding or an increase in recapture obligations. Morath is exercising his authority to adjust ADA for school districts that have lost attendance totals due to a natural disaster. The Texas Education Agency has established the following criteria for school districts and charter schools to be eligible for an ADA adjustment: 

- The school district or charter school has had damage to at least one campus which has resulted in a disruption of instruction lasting two or more weeks, or

- The school district or charter school had instructional facilities that were closed for the nine or 10 hurricane related waiver days; and
  
- The school district or charter school must complete the Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas Worksheet by Oct. 27, 2017. 

School systems must be within the Governor's 60-county state disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey to be eligible. Additional factors will be considered on a case by case basis. Although school systems have been identified, they are subject to verification, pending submission of the required information. The list of school systems that may meet eligibility requirements and current eligibility status are located here.
Inmates donate funds for Harvey relief
Inmates in Texas' criminal justice system wanted to help those impacted by the Category 4 hurricane, which caused $200 billion in damage in the state. Nearly 6,600 Texas prisoners have donated more than $53,000 of their commissary funds to the American Red Cross, Dallas News reported. The inmates mostly donated money from their small allowances - $95 every two weeks - that are used for purchasing paper, pencils and personal hygiene items. Each inmate contributed $8, on average, while others were able to give hundreds of dollars. 

It's not the first time prisoners have pitched in to help following a natural disaster. The first time was after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005. Inmates also donated to victims of Hurricane Rita in Texas the same year. In addition to monetary donations, inmates and officers have been working hard to repair five facilities that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Nearly 7,000 inmates were evacuated from prisons and treatment centers across the state after the hurricane flooded parts of the state.
Calendar of Events

Oct. 19
The 34th North Texas Association of Energy Engineers (NTAEE) Energy Conference will take place from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Texas Motor Speedway, 3545 Lone Star Circle in Fort Worth. This year's theme is "Racing to Renewable Energy." 

Guest speaker topics include Microgrid and Energy Storage, Lessons Learned from 35 Years of Renewable Energy Projects, Renewable Energy Procurement, Resiliency in Renewables, Coppell ISD Net-Zero School and more. The event will include great networking opportunities and a tour of the speedway. View the agenda here and register for the event here.
Oct. 19
The Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) present the Federal and State Resources Workshop on Oct. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100 in San Antonio. This event is designed for economic development professionals, community leaders and elected officials. Presenters will provide an overview of resources as well as interactive discussions on potential projects. View the agenda here.  

There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is requested by going here. For more information about this workshop, please contact Gloria Vasquez at 210.362.5212 or gvasquez@aacog.com.
Oct. 24
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts will host the Statewide Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program's Procurement Connection Seminar and Expo on Oct. 24 at the Renaissance Hotel, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. in Austin. 

Attendees will learn about state government procurement, attend educational workshops and network with purchasers from state agencies and higher education. For more information email delia.molina@cpa.texas.gov. View the agenda, workshops and register for the event here.
Nov. 8
The 27th Annual Human Resource Management Institute will be held from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the Commons Learning Center, located at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, 10100 Burnet Rd., Austin. For over 25 years the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, in cooperation with the Texas State Human Resources Association, has been proud to offer this institute. 

The aim of this program is to focus on the critical issues facing Human Resources professionals in the state of Texas as well as local government and higher education. Attendees leave with practical information and strategies that they will be able to take back to their organizations and use immediately. Find out more, view the agenda and register here
Nov. 13-15
The 14th Annual Texas Energy Summit-Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency Conference (CATEE) This 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 opportunities 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. 

Local municipal and county government officials/employees interested in attending this conference for free, consider applying for the SECO Scholarship which provides a limited number of complimentary full conference registrations. This year's event will be held at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center in Plano on Nov. 13-15. The event will focus on energy efficiency and air quality, as well as renewable energy workshops and sessions oriented toward local government opportunities.
Nov. 19-20
The 31st Annual Executive Women in Texas Government's annual professional development conference will be held Nov. 20, with an optional welcome reception on the evening of Nov. 19, at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel, Spa, & Conference Center, located at 1001 E. McCarty Lane in San Marcos. The theme this year is Bold Leadership: Courage, Confidence, Compassion.

Join over 800 women from state and local government, higher education and public-private partners. Network with experts, gain practical hands-on experience, develop insight on organizational change, engage with industry leaders, enhance strategic planning and leadership skills, and learn new strategies for overcoming challenges. Register for the conference here, view the agenda here and get the full list of workshops here.

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

The battle between President Donald Trump and the National Football League (NFL) regarding players being allowed to kneel during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem is headed into overtime. The brouhaha has dominated the news for weeks and it centers on some NFL players "taking a knee" during the playing of the National Anthem. While the athletes say they are protesting social inequality in the U.S., Trump sees their actions as disrespectful to both the nation's flag and anthem. 

Until recently, this battle has mostly been one of words, with Trump insisting that the NFL should develop a rule that forces players to stand during the National Anthem. He has received pushback from players, owners and the league. But recently, the president escalated the battle and his latest comments were aimed at hitting the NFL where it hurts most - in the pocketbook. 

Trump questioned whether tax law reform could eliminate the billions of dollars in tax-exempt municipal bonds that are used to help finance professional football and baseball stadiums and basketball and hockey arenas. That's a frightening thought for public officials, economic development groups, sports organizations, players and fans. 

Most municipal bonds, issued by states, cities, counties and other government entities such as school districts and special-purpose districts, are exempt from federal income taxes. They are also usually exempt from state and local income taxes. For the decade from 2003 to 2012, the National League of Cities (NLC) reports that municipal bonds accounted for $1.65 trillion of the revenue for public projects for state and local governments.  






Designing downtown Denison will cost $45M
A project nicknamed D3: Designing Downtown Denison, will cost about $45 million to revitalize Main Street. Denison city officials project that phase one will be about $7.5 million, and the makeover of Main Street will highlight parks and historic buildings. 

The project will also feature back-in parking and the street won't have curbs, making it more accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Construction would begin in 2019.
RFQ released for restoration in Harris County 
Harris County has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for architectural/engineering firms to restore nine essential county buildings and the Downtown Tunnel System.
Some of those buildings in need of restoration due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey include the Jury Assembly Building, Peden Building, Parks Administration and Criminal Justice Center. 

A pre-submittal conference will be held Oct. 17 at the Office of the Purchasing Agent and the RFQ must be delivered by Oct. 23.


GHS waiting on approval for new ag barn
Gainesville Independent School District Superintendent Jeff Brasher said he will recommend at the board meeting on Oct. 16 to move forward with plans to build an ag barn. Preliminary plans show that the barn would be 8,000-square-feet in size with 5,000 square-feet completely enclosed. 

The facility would be located at the southwest corner of Gainsville High School (GHS) and include a wash bay, grooming area, bathrooms and storage space. The estimated cost to build the barn is $800,000, and the monies would come from the district's fund balance. Currently, students are housing their animals at a makeshift barn at GHS or at their homes. 
City of Shenandoah adopts $8.5M budget
Shenandoah City Council members adopted an $8.5 million operating budget while lowering the fiscal year 2017-2018 property tax rate. The budget includes a property tax rate of 20.99 cents per $100 valuation. 

The budget includes funding for capital improvement projects including $50,000 for a water conservation rebate program and $50,000 for a water plant No. 2 booster project. The budget also includes $100,000 for a special events center feasibility study and architectural services.


Grimes chosen as city administrator for Willow Park
Bryan Grimes
Bryan Grimes has been chosen as Willow Park's new city administrator. Grimes, currently the city manager of Ballinger, has a tentative start date of Dec. 1. He has also served as city manager in Anson and Petersburg, Texas. 

Grimes was also a field representative for the Texas Association of Realtors from 2006 to 2009, and his work focused on West Texas political and governmental affairs. Grimes earned a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University.
López chosen as superintendent at GISD
Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo López has been named the lone finalist for the district's superintendent vacancy by the Garland Independent School District Board of Trustees. López is the current superintendent for Mission Consolidated ISD and will assume the duties of Garland ISD superintendent sometime after the state-mandated 21-day waiting period. 

López previously served as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent in Ysleta ISD. López earned a bachelor's from The University of Texas at El Paso, a master's from New Mexico State University and an Ed.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.


Heskett starts new school year as CISD superintendent
Christopher Heskett
Christopher Heskett has taken on the role of superintendent this school year for the Covington Independent School District. Heskett has 22 years of experience in education, including his last nine years as a principal at Valley View high school. 

Heskett is taking the place of Diane Innis who retired as superintendent after 13 years of service to the district. He earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Midwestern State University and an Ed.D. from Lamar University.


Boeske to retire from Humble city manager position
Humble City Manager Darrell Boeske announced plans to retire in December. Boeske has served in his position for nearly 13 years, and he has lived in Humble for more than 23 years. 

Prior to his position as a city manager, Boeske worked as a national sales manager for 15 years. He has a business degree from Sam Houston State University.
Cabler retires from Brownsville city manager position
Brownsville City Manager Charlie Cabler on Thursday submitted his letter of retirement after working for the city for 39 years. His retirement took effect immediately.

Cabler said he decided to retire because he feels the city needs a different direction and because he wants to be with a family member who is battling an illness. He had taken a family and medical leave of absence.
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments from October 6-October 12:
  • Mike Jones- Burleson, Texas Commission on Fire Protection
  • Bob D. Morgan- Fort Worth, Texas Commission on Fire Protection
  • Mala Sharma- Houston, Texas Commission on Fire Protection
  • J.P. Steelman- Longview, Texas Commission on Fire Protection
RECENT REPORTS
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week: 

Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

Check out these story headlines of the week on our website

 
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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 
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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