Citizen Advisory Alert

October 17th 1999

Budget Issues, Continued
The last issue of the Alert focused on the Fiscal Year 2000 budget, but there are a few budgetary issues that remain to be addressed. The FY 2000 budget is $500,000 less than the county’s actual spending in FY 1998. In the past, capital improvements have been paid for with reserve funds. For FY 2000, capital projects will be "off budget," and will be funded with Certificates of Obligation (a form of debt financing).

Galveston County started the new fiscal year on Oct 1, 1999.Commissioners Court considered a number of budget amendments before and after the start of the new fiscal year. When additional funds are needed to pay for these amendments, money may be taken from the budgeted reserve fund balance, or money may be shifted from one line item to another within a department. I am working to minimize the need for budget amendments in the future, to hold the line on spending, and to improve management of county business. I am continually looking for ways to reorganize departments to create efficiencies, and rethinking what services the county provides to determine whether they are necessary. I could use your help, and I welcome your suggestions.

Legislators Force New Court on Galveston County
At the request of the Galveston County’s District Judges, State Rep. Craig Eiland sponsored a bill to create a new county district court. In February, Commissioners Court voted to oppose creation of the court. I opposed the court because: (1) it will cost the county approximately $1.3 million the first year, and $850,000 annually after that; (2) there is not any physical space for the court, which ultimately could force the county to renovate the main courthouse complex at a cost of $40 to $80 million; and (3) the existing courts could likely increase their efficiency for less money than the cost of establishing a new court. Despite opposition from Galveston County Commissioners, the bill passed, and a new court was created. The new 405th district court begins operation on January 1, 2001, and the new judge will be elected in November 2000.

Certificates of Obligation
On October 14, Commissioner’s Court approved the sale of $12.23 million in Certificates of Obligation (CO’s) to finance seven capital projects: 1. renovate the main courthouse to include the new court, update existing courts, abate asbestos and build out an additional floor (cost: $7 million); 2. construct a new annex on Bolivar Peninsula, where the current facility is falling down (cost: $1.5 million); 3. construct a covered horse-riding arena at Jack Brooks Park (cost: $600k); 4. build a new Parks Department administration and senior center facility at Carbide Park and construct new roads in the park (cost: $1.9 million); 5. rehabilitate the North County building on FM 646 (cost: $500k); 6. construct a new park in the Bacliff /San Leon area (cost: $500k, with matching state grant); and 7. replace the roof at the Environmental Health building (cost: $145k). Although this is the current plan, there may not be enough money to complete all of the projects as described.

I voted against the capital improvements and the CO’s because spending $12 million for capital improvements in one year ? especially during a tight budget year in which the county already raised taxes ? is too aggressive. The spending on parks should have been voted on by the people of Galveston County, just not those who may have participated in creating the county’s Parks Master Plan. (Were you even aware that the county had a Parks Master Plan?)

What is the difference between CO’s and Bonds?
Bonds and CO’s are both forms of debt financing, but a bond issue requires public approval through a bond issue election. Because it takes time to arrange such an election, and because the new court has to be ready by January 1, 2001, Commissioners Court passed CO’s which do not require public approval.  (I voted against the CO’s.)  One half cent of the county tax rate increase is going to pay for the CO’s.

Progress!
The county has entered into interlocal agreements with Friendswood and Kemah, which allow those cities to purchase goods at cheaper county rates, saving your tax dollars.  It’s a step in the right direction.

These updates can also be viewed on the county’s website: www2.co.galveston.tx.us./commissioners.

REMINDER:
Don’t forget to Vote November 2.
Early Voting October 18-29
If you need more information call me.

E-mail clarkk@co.galveston.tx.us
174 Calder Rd., League City, TX  77573
 281-316-8745 or fax 281-316-2000

 

Look for our next Town Hall Meeting.

Phone: 281.316.8745 - fax: 281-3.316-2000

E-mail clarkk@co.galveston.tx.us

174 Calder Rd., League City, TX 77573

 

 

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