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GG 15
Improve the Operation and Efficiency of Texas State Parks

Summary

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) does not operate state parks efficiently. The department’s Strategic Plan for 2001-05 states that TPWD will meet only 50 percent of its maintenance needs and 45 percent of repair needs over this time period. In addition, decentralized management of parks and regional staff has led to a lack of accountability, missed federal grant opportunities and instances of fraud. To correct this situation, TPWD should cease operating some of its money-losing operations and seek to privatize them; establish positions dedicated to maximizing revenue from TPWD properties and grants; and eliminate certain duplicative functions.

Background

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) governs 123 parks covering 628,000 acres.[1] The State Parks Division receives the largest share of the TPWD operating budget, $49.5 million for each year of the biennium, which is about 25 percent of the total operating budget. Money for park operations comes from the General Revenue Fund (dedicated and un-dedicated), special legislative appropriations, fees, concession contracts and revenues generated by the parks. The State Parks Division is the largest division in the agency, with 1,012 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and 192 hourly FTEs.

The State Auditor’s Office (SAO) reported that TPWD has documented its processes poorly, lacks basic control and oversight, does not comply with some statutory provisions and collects and manages revenues inefficiently.[2] SAO says TPWD should streamline its park operations and do a better job of determining where to cut costs.[3]

Lodging

Many of the department’s parks and historic sites offer overnight accommodations. TPWD maintains almost 10,000 campsites and screened shelters and 138 cabins and mini-cabins, as well as other accommodations.[4] Currently, TPWD lodging establishments, like Indian Lodge and Landmark Inn do not have individual hotel tax permits.

Indian Lodge: TPWD operates one lodge, located in West Texas in the Davis Mountains, called Indian Lodge. It was built in the 1930s and has 39 rooms that range in price from $65 to $100 plus tax per night. In fiscal 2001, Indian Lodge reported 19,406 overnight guests, but the hotel reported a loss of $282,000 during this time period, as well as in the past. The lodge pays 37 employees a total of about $750,000 in salaries per year to run the small lodge (Exhibit 1). TPWD is not able to provide details regarding occupancy rates, making it difficult to evaluate the efficiency of operations.

Landmark Inn: TPWD also operates the Landmark Inn Bed & Breakfast located in Castroville, outside of San Antonio, with five full-time employees. This inn has eight small bedrooms that range in price from $45 to $55 per night, which according to the park manager is the lowest rate in town. The inn includes a complimentary breakfast with each night’s stay. This establishment reported a loss of $159,000 for fiscal 2001 (Exhibit 1).

Concessionaires

Many parks feature retail enterprises or concessions that sell items such as food, camping and fishing supplies, gifts, lease equipment such as boats and canoes or provide services such as horseback rides, fishing piers, golf courses or guided trips. These businesses are operated by TPWD employees, private vendors called leased concessions and others by non-profit “friends” groups. The higher the revenues from a concessionaire’s sales, the higher the state’s percentage of revenues should be, according to agency policy. However, contracts show that the state’s percentages are consistently lower than policy calls for.

In 2002, Texas state parks housed 88 leased concessions, 80 state-operated concessions and 13 concessions operated by “friends” groups. Each private concessionaire enters into a contract with TPWD that stipulates, among other things, what accommodations, facilities or services will be provided, what reports and accounting is due to the state and how the state will be compensated. No agreement is necessary for state-operated concessions since all revenues go to the state. For the “friends” groups, no amount of revenue is due the state because all revenues, less cost of goods sold and reasonable operating expenses, are supposed to be reinvested in park operations or improvements. TPWD does not monitor the friends groups to ensure that the revenue is actually being reinvested in state park operations or improvements.

The Parks Division’s Business Management Section is responsible for managing and monitoring the various concession contracts. This department has only two employees, and they are unable to actively monitor or audit concessions to ensure that appropriate revenues are going to the state. To address this problem, the agency’s internal auditor devised a plan to use staff in regional offices to perform limited reviews and audits of concession operations. Regional directors expressed concern, though, about their ability to perform financial audits.

Park stores

According to the TPWD Web site, 89 Texas state parks have park stores operated either by the agency or by concessionaires. Most retail operations on park land, such as park stores, tours and boat rentals, sell goods and services that are subject to state and local sales tax. However, unlike individual businesses that are required to have a sales and use tax permit and collect, remit and report taxes to the state, the park-located retailers only report the amounts they collect to TPWD, which makes a single monthly payment to the Comptroller’s office. The Comptroller’s office cannot require these stores to prepare a sales tax return.

A recent Comptroller sales tax audit found that park stores had failed to collect about $35,000 of local tax, and of the amounts that the stores collected, TPWD only estimated the allocation to local jurisdictions. Also, the stores do not have individual sales tax permits, although the Comptroller’s office has asked TPWD to do so. One of the stores visited by Comptroller agents had a permit under the name of the friends’ group, but was operated by park staff.

Many parks and other TPWD facilities are located within local jurisdictions that impose a local sales tax. Because TPWD remits the tax it collects in a lump sum through the state’s Uniform Statewide Accounting System (USAS), the Comptroller’s office must allocate and adjust these local taxes through USAS, which is not designed for detailed allocations, as is the state’s automated Tax System. According to Comptroller employees, this method is an inefficient use of the state’s accounting system and requires more Comptroller and TPWD resources than necessary.[5] It would be much more efficient for the Comptroller’s office to make all allocations and adjustments through the Tax System. To do this, all the TPWD sales tax information would have to be reported using individual sales tax returns, as do all other sales taxpayers.

Because the state does not require each location to possess a sales tax permit, and because the Comptroller’s office cannot require park stores to prepare sales tax returns, the agency cannot verify if local jurisdictions receive the taxes they deserve. Even if retail concessions are collecting the proper amount of local tax, the agency may not be sending the proper amount to local jurisdictions, because there is no return prepared that would indicate exactly which taxing jurisdiction should receive the tax.

TPWD has reported problems with its park stores, including embezzlement. A lack of financial controls and audit procedures makes it easy for store staff to steal the state’s money. Park-owned stores also have allowed employees to purchase merchandise with IOUs. This has been a problem at Brazos Bend and Inks Lake state parks.

The merchandise at park stores varies greatly from park to park; each store manager decides what to carry at that store. The Parks Division does not work with the agency Marketing Division to determine the type or quantity of merchandise that park stores should sell. The TPWD Web site does not provide information on the types of items that are available at the park stores.

Texas State Railroad

In 1976, TPWD began operating the Texas State Railroad between Palestine and Rusk. The track length is 25 miles and is located near U.S. Highway 84. The railroad has 66 full- and part-time employees and 25 vehicles, including two trains. Trains run primarily on the weekend, and both trains leave at 11:00 am for one round-trip. The railroad makes two special evening excursions per year, one in May and the other in September, and special school excursions in April and October.

The train only operates 94 days a year, or about 26 percent of the year, not including school excursions. The round-trip cost is $15 for adults and $9 for children. Special events, such as Murder on the DisOriented Express, the Victorian Christmas Train Ride and a Gamblers Train are conducted by local organizations, such as chambers of commerce. The state leases the train to these organizations at a reduced cost of $8 per person. The train is not operational during the Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays or during spring break, as opposed to other tourist-related businesses in the state.

The operating budget expenditures for the Texas State Railroad are the most expensive of all Texas state parks. Expenditures for fiscal 2001 were $2.2 million, nearly twice as much as any other state park (Exhibit 1). The railroad also employs more people than any other state park. In fiscal 2001, the railroad reported 131,681 visitors. These visitor counts either are incorrect or not all visitors paid entrance fees, because revenues reported for the period were only $750,137. The railroad reported a loss of $1.5 million in fiscal 2001.

Both the Rusk and Palestine train stations have large, well-stocked gift shops with similar merchandise. In fiscal 2002, the park budgeted $110,000 for merchandise purchased for resale. After salaries were paid, the state netted about $84,000 in profit, but this does not include overhead, or other operating expenses.

Exhibit 1
Comparison of Selected Parks for Fiscal 2001

State Park Gross Receipts Operating Budget Expenditures Estimated Visitors Average Cost of Operations Per Visitor Number of Park Employees
Landmark Inn (bed & breakfast) $ 63,112 $ 222,516 2,001* $111.20 5
Texas State Railroad 750,137 2,244,204 131,681 17.04 66
Cedar Hill 782,393 822,887 674,327 1.22 17
Indian Lodge (motel) 992,652 1,274,800 19,406* 65.69 37
Inks Lake 912,493 690,465 323,640 2.13 16
Garner 1,671,857 849,161 488,436 1.74 17
*Overnight visitors only
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Managing natural resources

Mineral leases: Mineral leases for land owned by the Parks Division are handled by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Board for Lease, which is controlled by the General Land Office (GLO). The board consists of the GLO commissioner, the TPWD executive director and a citizen appointed by the governor. In fiscal 2001, the State Parks Fund received $462,000 from revenues generated from mineral leases and easements controlled by the board.

When asked about park revenues, TPWD referred questions to the Board for Lease. Minutes from the board meetings indicate that TPWD only sends staff members to meetings to serve as resource witnesses, while the GLO commissioner or deputy commissioner attend all meetings. The board secretary reports that no one from TPWD votes at the meetings.[6] The last time a TPWD executive director attended a meeting was August 27, 1998. The department does not assign a staff member to monitor or audit leases to ensure that the state is getting all the revenue it should.

At a Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation Committee (a committee of TPWD commission members that handle conservations issues for the agency) meeting held on April 3, 2002, several TPWD employees presented nominations for oil and gas leases and easements.[7] TPWD submits land for lease or easement to the committee for approval when outside entities express interest in leasing. State park land generates less than a half-million dollars per year from leases. When two committee members asked if the state would generate all the revenue it could from its leases, TPWD staff referred the question to GLO.

In contrast, other entities that control state-owned land, such as the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems, have numerous experienced personnel dedicated to managing mineral interests. The Texas A&M System has 4.5 staff members managing its 51,000 acres of land, which generates about $2.5 million per year.[8] The University of Texas System, with a staff of 23 employees located in Midland in the University Lands office, controls 2.1 million acres of land, which generated $115.6 million in revenues from oil and gas in fiscal 2001. The University of Texas System bases its lease rates on the rates charged by private landowners. The University also regularly contracts with a private appraisal company to provide comparative statistics for right-of-way acquisitions.[9]

TPWD’s poor revenue performance does not appear to result from any excessive protectiveness toward its land. The agency allows hunting at the Resaca de la Palma State Park, near San Benito, home to thousands of birds and a site within the World Birding Center, while Falcon State Park, on the Texas-Mexico border, near Falcon Heights (halfway between Laredo and McAllen), has more than 80 gas wells drilled on 573 acres, through a deal arranged between the past agency executive director and the company drilling the wells.

According to a March 2002 press article, these wells have produced more than $500 million in revenues since production began in 1991, but the state has received only $350,000 for use of the land surface, with the rest going to the drilling companies and federal government.[10] (The state owns the land surface, but the federal government and private entities own the minerals.) GLO staff stated that the state could have entered into a contract with the producing companies for a portion of the mineral revenues, even though TPWD only controls the surface rights.[11]

Timber

The Parks Division’s Natural Resources program is responsible for managing all natural resources within the parks, including timber sales. The program manager has said, “We do not manage for forest products or timber. We manage for habitat and natural communities. Revenue generation is not one of the objectives.”[12] This method of management, however, does not maximize state revenue. Timber is a valuable resource, and Chapter 13, Section 13.0061 of the Parks and Wildlife Code allows the department to harvest and sell timber under appropriate forestry practices with the advice of the Texas Forest Service.

The Natural Resources program operates only five active timber and forest management projects, and has no statewide plan for timber management in the parks. According to the Huntsville office of the Texas Forest Service, the Huntsville State Park should be thinned because of fire risks. The necessary thinning is a part of forest management and can be profitable for the state. GLO contracted to have timber thinned and sold on a 122-acre tract of state land the agency managed, and the state received $88,000 for 200,000 board feet.

Thinning prevents fires and protects trees from harmful insects. Sometimes parks cut or dispose of trees damaged in storms, but many park managers lack experience in timber management, leading to the loss of potential revenues from discarded timber.

Grazing

Both TPWD’s Wildlife Division and Parks Division receive revenue from grazing leases. The Wildlife Division manages 52 wildlife management areas totaling about 740,000 acres that are used for wildlife research and wildlife management demonstrations, while the Parks Division controls about 626,000 acres at 123 parks. In July 2002, the Parks Division said the executive director determined in the 1990s that resource-sensitive areas were being compromised, so grazing in state parks was reduced.[13]

In fiscal 2001, the Wildlife Division deposited $196,303 from grazing leases in wildlife management areas into Fund 9, the Game, Fish and Water Safety Account funded by hunting and fishing license fees, boat registration and title fees. In the same year, the Parks Division deposited just $6,784 into the State Parks Fund 64, the state parks account funded by park entrance fees and facility use fees.

Comptroller analysts asked Parks Division headquarters staff about grazing leases and found that they were not even aware that the division received such revenue. The only park with a current grazing lease is Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, which has a lease providing 3,465 acres of short grass prairie at a rate of $7 per animal, per month, for five years. The park received a total of $8,120 in fiscal 2001 from the Palo Duro lease, but only $6,784 went to the Parks Division because the agreement with the lessee states that the park can use some of the money for park improvements.

The Palo Duro park manager believes that opportunities exist at other parks around the state to lease park land for grazing.[14] Much of the state’s park land originally was ranch land. The Big Bend Ranch is a good example of a park with large fenced pastures conducive to grazing.

Grazing experts could help TPWD maximize its grazing lease revenues. The staff of the Texas Cooperative Extension Section of Texas A&M University System has extensive experience and knowledge relating to managing rangelands and grazing. This group has published numerous articles on the topic and is considered a world leader in the field.

Pecan harvest

Stephen F. Austin State Park in San Felipe, Texas has acres of large native pecan trees. Many of the trees are located on a golf course that was leased to the Stephen F. Austin Golf Association under a concession contract. As part of its contract with TPWD, the association has a financial interest in the harvest of pecans from trees located on the golf course. The contract states that the association will harvest and sell the pecans with one fourth of the revenue going to the state.

When Comptroller staff asked TPWD headquarters personnel about revenues from the harvest, TPWD presented documentation stating that the money received from pecan sales is handled as donation funds. The S.F. Austin “friends” group, a volunteer group that helps park staff, kept the 1999 pecan harvest payment of $1,004.40 until May 2002, when Comptroller staff asked for pecan harvest records. At that time, the “friends” group sent the money to the State Parks Account. They had no supporting documentation that the amount given to the state actually represented one fourth of the revenue.

The Varner-Hogg Plantation in West Columbia, Texas has 25 acres of mature pecan trees. The trees are sometimes harvested, but they are not pruned or sprayed to increase yields. Several years ago, a bumper crop produced about $3,500 in revenues. According to the park manager, it is “left up to Mother Nature.”[15] The Resource Protection Section of the Parks Division confirmed that pecan trees in parks are not managed for production.[16]

Revenues opportunities and control

Over the years, state park expenses have risen faster than incoming revenues. In fiscal 2001, the Parks Division recovered only 63 percent of its expenses (Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 2
Expenses and Revenues for State Parks
Fiscal Years 1997 to 2001

Fiscal Year Expenses Revenues Percent of Expenses Recovered
1997 $23,807,532 $20,427,428 85.8%
1998 26,057,367 22,172,978 85.1%
1999 27,034,647 23,022,874 85.2%
2000 38,199,266 25,088,573 65.7%
2001 41,147,037 26,016,868 63.2%
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Federal grants

TPWD’s Wildlife Division headquarters has its own federal aid coordinator who seeks federal grant money for the division; the Inland Fisheries Division headquarters has a federal aid coordinator as well. The Parks Division has no such position. The Parks Division headquarters staff does not seek grant money, leaving the job up to each park. Some park managers do an exemplary job of finding and applying for grants. Sheldon Lakes State Park, on the east side of Houston, for instance, has procured grants adding to more than $600,000 since 1993. But park managers have many daily responsibilities, and most parks miss out on grant opportunities.

Toll-free telephone number

The Parks Division operates a telephone bank that is used primarily to respond to customer inquiries and reservations for lodging. In April 2000, TWPD created a task force to review the telephone bank and central reservation system. The task force recommended that the agency provide a toll-free number for park reservations, at a cost estimated at $250,000 per year.[17]

The agency has stated that it does not have funding to provide a toll-free number for park reservations; a consultant report on TPWD business practices, however, stated that the supervisor of the reservation center said the single largest complaint they receive is the lack of a toll-free number.[18] The report recommended that the agency acquire such a number for park reservations, but again, the agency pleaded lack of funds. Interestingly, TPWD does have a toll-free number that provides information on a variety of activities such as, the Conservation Passport, the Lone Star Legacy program, the TPWD magazine, boating, fishing and hunting information, permits and education programs.

Fiscal control

Credit cards: The Parks Division provides credit cards to employees for park-related purchases. Forty-eight percent of Parks Division employees have these credit cards, compared to just 14 percent of employees at the Texas Department of Transportation and 2 percent at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. A February 2002 SAO report documented inadequate controls over these cards.[19] The report stated that “the Parks Division delegates more purchasing authority to its non-procurement staff than other agencies, and these staff members are not always trained in using procurement cards.” SAO discovered that the agency paid sales tax for about one-third of its purchases, though state agencies are not required to pay these taxes. In fiscal 2001, TPWD paid about $280,000 unnecessarily in state and local sales taxes.

Vehicles: The Parks Division has 985 of TPWD’s 2,020 vehicles, including 24 buses, 37 vans and 41 dump trucks. Oddly, many parks have more vehicles than staff; Caprock Canyons State Park, southeast of Amarillo, has four times as many vehicles as employees (Exhibit 4). Other small state parks, consisting of only several acres and a limited number of structures, also have what appear to be excessive numbers of vehicles (Exhibit 3).

Many of these vehicles are “hand-me-downs” from other divisions, and some old vehicles are used for parts. Seventy-one of the Parks vehicles appear inappropriate for park use; examples include sedans such as Intrepids, Caprices, Crown Victorias and Luminas. Fulton Mansion, a tiny 2.3 acre site in Fulton, Texas, has one Intrepid sedan and one GMC truck. Officials said the sedan was for travel to Austin and around town.[20] A 2.2 acre site, Sebastopol State Historic Site in Seguin, also has two vehicles and a staff of three. Park officials said they were used to transport exhibits and staff to meetings.[21] (Exhibit 3).

In comparison, the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS), which has 516 field offices around the state, only has 58 vehicles. All employees are encouraged to use their own vehicles and receive reimbursement for mileage when appropriate. As of August 2002, DHS had 13,654 employees.

The State Vehicle Fleet Management Plan of the Texas Building and Procurement Commission states that surplus vehicles should be disposed of promptly, because “the longer they sit, the more they depreciate.” TPWD does not follow this guideline and seems to have far too many vehicles. The Parks Division reported that it is in the process of slowly reducing its fleet by about 15 percent.

Exhibit 3
Selected TPWD Vehicles by Park and Park Size

Park Number of Vehicles Park Size In Acres
Texas State Railroad 25 499.0
Eisenhower 18 423.1
Tyler 15 985.0
Goliad 7 188.3
Landmark Inn 3 4.7
Starr Family Home 2 3.1
Fulton Mansion 2 2.3
Sebastopol 2 2.2
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Exhibit 4
Selected TPWD Vehicles and Staffing by Park

Park Number of Vehicles Number Of Staff
Big Bend Ranch 26 10
Caprock Canyons 24 6
Cedar Hill 21 17
Bastrop 20 14
Martin Dies 20 8
McKinney Falls 12 9
Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Gasoline credit cards

Some TPWD staff use state vehicles with state-paid gasoline to commute long distances from their homes, to drive to lunch and other personal errands. The agency provides employees with credit cards for gasoline and uses an honor system to ensure that the cards are used only for state-related purchases.

The Internal Revenue Service requires employers that provide vehicles to employees for personal use to calculate the taxable income related to the personal usage and include this amount on employee W-2 forms. Using a state vehicle for personal use is an expensive privilege, considering the cost of the vehicle, gasoline, maintenance and insurance. The TPWD Payroll director stated that it was against agency policy to use vehicles for personal use and that the agency does not calculate the fringe benefits.[22]

In calendar 2001, the Parks Division spent $701,285 on 511,328 gallons of gasoline for 985 vehicles, an average cost of $718 per year for each vehicle. TPWD uses two gasoline credit cards, Voyager and Diamond Shamrock. The Voyager card is a credit card that can be used with different gas companies and comes with a tracking system. Parks employees are allowed to carry both the Voyager and Diamond Shamrock cards. At this writing, division employees have 497 Voyager cards and 188 Diamond Shamrock cards. Although a section in the Parks purchasing manual addresses gas cards, the division does not give employees formal training in their use.[23]

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) uses only the Voyager credit card system, due to the strict controls it provides; if a person uses an unusual amount of fuel, the fleet manager is notified. DPS management performs a monthly review of each vehicle to monitor mileage and fuel consumption.[24] The Parks Division does not use such controls.

To monitor fuel purchases, the Parks Division’s Finance Section sends detailed statements to regional office administrative technicians for review. The technicians are responsible for checking for possible abuse or abnormalities. A Comptroller review of the June 2002 statement from Diamond Shamrock and Voyager revealed numerous questionable transactions, as well as purchases for merchandise that do not appear to be vehicle-related. An example found is TPWD employees purchasing food on their gasoline credit cards. This procurement is not allowed by law.

According to the State Vehicle Fleet Management Plan, “Unless specifically prohibited by manufacturer warranty or recommendations, all state vehicles operating on gasoline shall use regular unleaded gasoline.” TPWD does not adhere to this policy on all transactions. A review of the agency’s gasoline purchasing record for June 2002 shows that agency employees frequently purchase unleaded plus and super unleaded gasoline. U.S. Department of Energy Information Administration statistics show that in May 2002, the difference between the average price of unleaded regular gasoline and unleaded premium gasoline was 20.4 cents per gallon.

Program duplication

The TPWD Resource Protection Division has a staff of 84.5 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and a fiscal 2002 budget of $5.4 million, including federal grants.[25] According to the agency Web site, this division “protects fish, wildlife, plant and mineral resources from degradation or depletion and provides information and recommendations to other governmental agencies and participates in administrative and judicial proceedings concerning pollution incidents, development projects and other actions that may affect fish and wildlife.”

Within the Parks Division, there is a Natural Resources Program that is staffed by 13 FTEs and an operating budget of $100,000; as stated on the agency Web site, it “is responsible for the overall coordination of environmental, ecological and stewardship services on Texas State parklands.” The manager of the Natural Resources Program stated that “for many park projects we will have the lead for the park-related issues, while the Resources Protection Division will have the overall project lead.”[26] This represents a duplication of effort and seems unnecessary, since Resource Protection has a large staff that could provide the services and expertise needed regarding resource issues in state parks.

Recommendations

A. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Parks Division should stop operating the Indian Lodge and Landmark Inn on September 1, 2003, and seek to privatize its lodging operations.

TPWD should contract with a concessionaire to operate the facilities and sell or re-allocate all vehicles assigned to the facilities by January 1, 2004. The sale or re-allocation of vehicles must be approved by the Office of Fleet Management of the Texas Building and Procurement Commission.

B. TPWD should hire an experienced retail coordinator to oversee state park gift stores and maximize their revenues to the state.

A new “retail coordinator” position should be created at headquarters. This employee should have extensive retail experience to coordinate all store purchasing and marketing. The stores should pool their purchase orders to achieve savings by using economies of scale. The agency should create a best practices manual and provide it to each park store. The retail coordinator should gather input from the State Preservation Board’s Capitol Gift Shop management.

C. The Parks Division should hire an experienced concession contract manager to monitor all park concession contracts and maximize revenues to the state.

D. TPWD should stop operating the Texas State Railroad on September 1, 2003, and should seek to privatize its operations.

The contract with the private operator should require that the railroad be open during major holiday seasons, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Spring Break, and that the railroad should conduct additional activities, such as dinner trains, to increase revenue to the state.

E. TPWD should create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for managing and coordinating mineral leases and easements at state parks.

This person should have expertise in the field and should monitor all leases and keep abreast of prices. TPWD is required to use the General Land Office’s Board for Lease to negotiate its leases, but it should develop its own expertise regarding leases and easements. The agency should work with the University of Texas System and Texas A&M staff to gather information on maximizing mineral revenues and easements.

F. TPWD executive management should take a more active role at Board for Lease meetings.

G. TPWD should create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for managing timber resources at state parks and enter into an memorandum of understanding (MOU) contract with the Texas Forest Service to create a master plan for managing timber in state parks.

No timber should be sold without the approval of the Texas Forest Service.

H. TPWD should create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for managing grazing at state parks and maximize revenues from grazing, as the Wildlife Division does. TPWD also should establish a MOU with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Texas A&M to create a master plan for grazing at Texas state parks.

The person hired for the new position should have expertise and an agricultural-related degree. This person would be required to track the state’s leases and become familiar with grazing lease rates in the state.

I. TPWD should create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for procuring and managing grants.

TPWD should maximize federal and other grants for Texas state parks, as do the federal aid coordinators in the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions.

J. TPWD should provide a toll-free telephone number for customers to make park reservations and should use the state’s TexasOnline Internet portal to accept online reservations.

The cost of the toll-free number should be no more than $300,000 per year, based on studies by the TPWD staff.

K. TPWD should ensure that Parks Division purchases made with agency procurement cards are not charged state and local sales taxes, unless appropriate.

L. The Parks Division should monitor state vehicle use to ensure vehicles are used appropriately, and the Texas Building and Procurement Division, Office of Vehicle Fleet Management should examine the disposal of Parks Division vehicles to ensure the division follows state Office of Vehicle Fleet Management standards.

TPWD should monitor their employees to ensure proper use of agency vehicles. The agency should not allow employees to use vehicles for personal purposes. If any exceptions are allowed, involving personal use of state vehicles, the benefit should be well documented and reported to the Internal Revenue Service as a fringe benefit and accounted for by TPWD on the employees’ W-2s.

M. TPWD should monitor gasoline consumption per vehicle and use gasoline credit card software to prevent abuses.

TPWD should not allow employees to purchase unauthorized merchandise with gasoline credit cards. Employees should sign statements acknowledging the repercussions of unauthorized use of these cards. TPWD should provide written guidelines for the use of credit cards and the penalties for inappropriate uses. These guidelines would include using only regular unleaded gasoline in TPWD vehicles and following the State Vehicle Fleet Management Plan. The credit card software should be programmed to send exception reports regarding the purchase of any unauthorized items at the time of checkout.

N. TPWD should eliminate the Parks Division’s Natural Resources Program, since it duplicates effort with the Resource Protection Division.

The Resource Protection Division should provide all park-related natural resource services with existing resources.

Fiscal Impact

General Revenue, Dedicated Account #64 and the State Parks Account would be affected by the fiscal impact of these recommendations.

Recommendation A would cut the TPWD budget by $1,497,000 per year and eliminate 42 FTEs. (In fiscal 2001, TPWD budgeted $222,516 to operate Landmark Inn and $1,274,800 for Indian Lodge. Landmark Inn had gross receipts of $63,112, leaving a net loss of $159,404, while Indian Lodge had gross receipts of $992,652, for a net loss of $282,148.) The Parks Division’s Administrative Services Section would look for a concessionaire to operate Indian Lodge and Landmark Inn that would provide the best dollar value to the state and care for the facilities in the same or better manner as the agency. The state should establish a concession agreement with a minimum of 5 percent of revenues going to the state. The gain to the state from the concession contract cannot be estimated until the contract is negotiated. The gain to the state from vehicle sales contract cannot be estimated until TPWD decides how many and which vehicles to sell.

Recommendation B would create a new position for a retail coordinator for state park gift stores, and create a best practices manual for park stores. The cost for the retail coordinator would be $65,000 per year, including benefits. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget, as should the cost of preparing the manual.

Recommendation C would create a new position for a concession contract manager to monitor all park concession contracts and maximize revenues to the state. The cost for a concession contract manager retail coordinator would be $65,000 per year salary, including benefits. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget.

Recommendation D would stop the operation of the Texas State Railroad on September 1, 2003, and seek to privatize it. The Parks Division’s Administrative Services Section would lease the Texas State Railroad to an outside entity, with a concession agreement paying a minimum of 5 percent of revenues to the state. The gain to the state from the concession contract cannot be estimated until it is negotiated. This proposal would eliminate 66 FTEs. In fiscal 2001, the Texas State Railroad was budgeted $2.24 million for operations, but had $750,000 in gross receipts, making a net loss of $1.49 million per year.

TPWD would sell or reallocate all vehicles assigned to the Texas State Railroad by January 1, 2004. The sale or reallocation of vehicles must be approved by the Office of Fleet Management of the Texas Building and Procurement. It is not possible to estimate the fiscal impact of the sale of the vehicles until the department determines how many and which vehicles to sell.

Recommendation E would create a new position in the Parks Division to manage and coordinate mineral leases and easements at state parks. The cost for the minerals and easement coordinator would be $65,000 per year, including benefits. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget.

Recommendation F has no direct fiscal impact.

Recommendation G would create a new position in the Parks Division to manage timber resources and enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Texas Forest Service to create a master plan for timber management in state parks. The cost for a Parks Division timber coordinator would be $65,000 per year, including benefits; the MOU with the Texas Forest Service would cost $10,000 per year. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget.

Recommendation H would create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for managing grazing at state parks and establish an MOU with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Texas A&M to create a master plan for grazing at Texas state parks. The cost for a Parks Division grazing and land management coordinator would be $65,000 per year, including benefits; the MOU with Texas A&M would cost $15,000 per year. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget.

Recommendation I would create a new position in the Parks Division responsible for procuring and managing grants. The cost for a grants coordinator would be $65,000 per year, including benefits. Any additional administrative costs related to the position should be paid from the existing Parks Division budget.

Recommendation J would establish a toll-free telephone number for customers to make park reservations and use the TexasOnline system for Internet reservations. The cost of the new toll-free number cannot be estimated, but should not be more than $300,000 per year based on studies by the TPWD staff. The TPWD Internet reservations system should be developed under the TexasOnline project. The savings to TPWD and the cost of the TexasOnline reservations system cannot be estimated.

Recommendation K would ensure that Parks Division purchases made with agency procurement cards do not pay state and local sales taxes when appropriate. The SAO audit estimates that this recommendation could save TPWD several hundred thousand dollars per year.

Recommendation L would require TPWD to monitor state vehicle use; examine the disposal of all Parks Division vehicles to ensure the division follows agency standards; monitor employees to prevent personal use of state vehicles; and report any personal use of vehicles to the Internal Revenue Service as a fringe benefit. The savings to TPWD and the administrative cost of accounting for the fringe benefits cannot be estimated.

Recommendation M would require TPWD to monitor gasoline consumption and use gasoline credit card software to prevent abuse and require the use of regular unleaded fuel unless the vehicle guide specifies another type. The savings to the Parks Division cannot be estimated.

Recommendation N would eliminate the Parks Division’s Natural Resources Program, since it duplicates effort with the Resource Protection Division. This would save TPWD $836,000 annually, based on the Natural Resources Program budget in fiscal 2001. The amount includes the elimination of 13 FTE positions.

The total savings generated by these recommendations would be $2,057,000 per year. The Legislature should reduce TPWD appropriations from the State Parks Account in the General Revenue Fund by $2,057,000 each year to achieve these savings.

Estimated Total Fiscal Impact

Fiscal Year Savings to General Revenue - Dedicated (Account 0064) State Parks (Cost) to General Revenue - Dedicated (Account 0064) State Parks Revenue (Loss) to General Revenue - Dedicated (Account 0064) State Parks Net Savings to General Revenue - Dedicated (Account 0064) State Parks Net Change in FTEs
2004 $4,578,000 ($715,000) ($1,806,000) $2,057,000 -115
2005 $4,578,000 ($715,000) ($1,806,000) $2,057,000 -115
2006 $4,578,000 ($715,000) ($1,806,000) $2,057,000 -115
2007 $4,578,000 ($715,000) ($1,806,000) $2,057,000 -115
2008 $4,578,000 ($715,000) ($1,806,000) $2,057,000 -115

A special report with additional information about the TPWD, State Parks Division will be released after this e-Texas report.


Endnotes

[1]Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The Sense of Place, 2001 Annual Report, (Austin, Texas, December 2001), p. 4 and Natural Agenda, A Strategic Plan for TPWD 2003 – 2007, (Austin, Texas, August 2002), p. 8.

[2]State Auditor’s Office, An Audit Report on Revenue Management at the Parks and Wildlife Department (Austin, Texas, October 2001), Key Points of Report.

[3]State Auditor’s Office, An Audit Report on the Parks and Wildlife Department’s Management of the State Park System (Austin, Texas, September 1998), Key Points of Report.

[4]Memorandum from Bill Skruggs, Administrative Services, State Parks Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, April 25, 2002.

[5]Interview with Mary Gold, Revenue Accounting Division, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin, Texas, March 20, 2002.

[6]Interview with Judy Powell, secretary to the General Land Office’s Board for Lease, Austin, Texas, July 11, 2002.

[7]Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Conservation Committee meeting transcript, Austin, Texas, April 3, 2002.

[8]Interview with Dan Buchly, director of Real Estate, Texas A&M System, Bryan, Texas, July 15, 2002.

[9]Allen, Williford & Seale, Real Estate Appraisers, University Lands Rate Study (Houston, Texas, March 23, 2000).

[10]“Morales blasts park drilling,” Fort Worth Star Telegram (March 10, 2002), p. 1.

[11]Interview with Robert Hatter, General Land Office, Austin, Texas, April 9, 2002.

[12]Memorandum from David Riskind, Resource Management Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, July 29, 2002.

[13]Memorandum from Carolyn Gonzales, Parks Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, July 17, 2002.

[14]Interview with Hy Newbie, park manager for Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, July 25, 2002.

[15]Interview with John Dominguez, park manager, Varner-Hogg Plantations State Historic Park, West Columbia, Texas, August 9, 2002.

[16]Interview with David Riskind, Natural Resources, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin, Texas, August 6, 2002.

[17]Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State Parks Central Reservation System Review (Austin, Texas, April 24, 2000), p. 12.

[18]Elton Bomer, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Business Practices Evaluation (Austin, Texas, March 29, 2002), p.107. (Consultant’s report.)

[19]State Auditor’s Office, An Audit Report on Procurement Card Processes and Controls (Austin, Texas, February 2002), p. 1.

[20]Interview with Suzanne Wood, office manager, Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, Fulton, Texas, July 31, 2002.

[21]Interview with Kandy Taylor-Hille, Sebastopol State Historic Site, Seguin, Texas, July 31, 2002.

[22]Interview with Joseph Molis, payroll director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, June 26, 2002.

[23]E-mail communication from Tammy Dunham, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, August 9, 2002.

[24]Interview with Jerry Newberry, fleet manager, Texas Department of Public Safety, Austin, Texas, July 1, 2002.

[25]Interview with Toni Oldfather, budget manager, Resource Protection Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2002.

[26]E-mail communication from David Riskind, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2002.