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Dog days brings budget workshops

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

When the Dog Days of Summer roll around, it not only signifies lazy days tubing down the Medina River, but somnambulistic afternoons spent covering budget workshops conducted by Bandera County Commissioners.
The first one was held during a regular meeting on Thursday, July 14. For the record, although financial figures are still fluid, by all accounts, the county will remain in good shape when this fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
As County Judge Richard Evans noted, “We’ll end up with more (revenue) than we anticipated, but we don’t have any numbers yet from CAD (Central Appraisal District).”
According to Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert “Bob” Grimes, the general fund balance should increase by $400,000 with revenues with road and bridge in the black and those from the county EMS department in the red. However, the latter occurrence did not surprise anyone since, historically, emergency services and law enforcement do not serve as revenue generators for the county.
Evans explained that a proposed budget is simply a “best guess,” based on historical date and projections. Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris added, “The budget is a working document that can be amended both up and down as needed.”
“We’ll continue working during the next couple of court sessions and we can always change the budget before it’s adopted,” Evans explained. “In mid-August we’ll have more definite numbers.”
Looking at preliminary finances, Evans noted that there would be no tax increase for county residents for FY1016-2017.
Then the court discussed allocations of so-called “block grants” to local nonprofits.
Silver Sage
transportation grant
Art Crawford, president of the Silver Sage Community Center Board of Directors, asked the court for transportation funding in the amount of $5,000. He assured the court that bus services provided by Silver Sage would not overlap with ART (Alamo Regional Transit) buses currently available for county residents. “We want to complement ART services, not step on anyone’s toes,” Crawford said.
“We anticipate using two buses to assist our homebound clients,” he said. “Forty-eight percent indicated they would use them to come to the center. Since ART no longer offers this service, our clients have a need.”
ART, Crawford added, has cut “way back” on services, curtailing several routes. Additionally, ART’s cost to low-income clients has become untenable.
As an example, he said, “One of our clients currently receives $941 from disability. Her rent is $650 a month and electricity is $100. Additionally, she has to go to dialysis three times a week. She pays $16 a day to use ART, which is $200 a month. There’s simply no money left.”
Crawford told the court that a Silver Sage bus would transport the woman to her dialysis appointments without charge.
“We’re applying for grants to fund this new transportation, but we must show support from the county, city and community,” Crawford said.
He said the $5,000 would begin the grant-applying process; commissioners agreed with alacrity.
Boys & Girls Clubs
Michael “Mike” Pimpinella, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bandera County asked for $10,000 to assist with the organization’s programs. However, Precinct 1 Commission Robert “Bob” Grimes noted that after an extensive search, there seemed to be no statue in the tax code that enabled allocations of tax money to a nonprofit organization.
In addition, a request for an opinion from the Texas Attorney General on allocations of this type was described as a “non-answer” that provided no guidance.
However, since BGC also provides services for at-risk children, commissioners decided that the requested funds could be funneled through the Bandera County Child Welfare Board and earmarked specifically for BGC.
“If the $10,000 has to come through the child welfare board, so be it,” Harris said. “I’d rather have children at the center than out setting fires and stealing.”
Pimpinella indicated he would have no problem applying for the requested funding through the board.
SA Food Bank
For the first time, Mario Blatto Jr. of the San Antonio Food Bank asked the court for monetary support – a request backed by Crawford, who lauded the assistance the food bank gives to the Silver Sage’s Meals on Wheels program.
“If it weren’t for the San Antonio Food Bank, we’d be in real trouble,” Crawford said. During the last several years, Silver Sage food costs have spiraled. “This year, we received services valued at $71,000 from the food bank, for only $45,000. We’re serving a lot more people for a lot less money,” Crawford said.
He added that in many areas, people requesting Meals on Wheels are put on a waiting list, but not in Bandera County.
The SA Food Bank works with five partners in the county, the BGC, Silver Sage, Helping Hand, Faith Tabernacle and the Medina Children’s Home, serving 950 families per month. “In Bandera County, 16 percent of the population is food insecure,” Blatto said.
He asked for support in the amount of $12,000 from the court. “This funding would allow for distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and protein all over the county.”
Next on tap was the federated library system. John Pearce, Bandera representative to the federation, requested that $293,000 be divided among the county’s three libraries – Bandera County Public Library, Lakehills Area Library and the Medina Community Library. Combined budgets for the three libraries are $355,000
This request represented a substantial increase over the $250,000 allocated to the libraries for the last three years. The increase, Pearce stated, was necessary because “revenues are unpredictable due to fundraising variables and an increased need for innovative and enhanced computer technology.” Justifying the request, Pearce said, “A huge community service is met by libraries and library grants are few and far between.”
Evans was not convinced, however. “We all agree on the importance of libraries, but the increase is just too much. No government departments will receive a 16 to 18 percent increase.”
Harris noted that libraries in Medina and Lakehills brought in $50,000 and $17,000, respectively, through fundraising efforts, but that the Bandera Library had listed “zero revenue” from fundraising. “I know you sponsor the Wild Hog Explosion. What happened to that money?”
Pearce said production costs ate away at the profits and the net revenue from the fundraiser went directly into the library’s endowment fund. This, he added, was not reflected in the budget.
“In the future, I want to see funds raised at benefits reflected in the budget,” Harris said. In the end, commissioners offered the federated library system $275,000 – an 8 percent increase.
All the proposed block grants are subject to final approval by the court.
$$$ Windfall
Additionally, during a meeting on Thursday, July 28, commissioners received some good news that will allow continued funding of child-advocacy organizations.
According to Auditor Christina Moreno, Bandera County received a windfall from the State of Texas that amounted to $138,526 in unclaimed capital credits. “Prior to this, the most we have ever received was $12,000,” she told the court. “When we received it, I thought there must have been a typo, but apparently the state changed its calculations and we got this windfall.”
“We can use some of the money to funds the kids’ programs like Star Ranch and CASA,” said Evans.
“Yes, prior to us receiving this money, I wasn’t sure how we were going to do that,” Moreno said.