Statement to The Aransas County Commissioners Court Regarding the Aransas County Navigation District’s Requested Property Tax Rate

By Jack Wright

 

I asked Pat Rousseau, the Commissioner who represents the Precinct I reside in, to read the following statement to the Commissioner’s Court session on Monday, September 12, 2022. I was unable to attend in person.

This meeting has an agenda item to consider the approval of the Aransas County Navigation District’s Budget, which is this Court’s responsibility. The document prepared for your approval by the District is completely devoid of any analysis of the prior year’s actuals to budget or the year before that. In fact, at no time in the last three years did they compare their actual results to their budget. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in March of this year to the District. Among other specific requests, I asked for their study or comparison of the actuals to budget. They were unable to provide it because they don’t do it. Meeting Minutes posted on their website do not mention the word budget in the 27 months of information I requested except for May of 2021 where $100,000 was added to the Budget for “Little Bay”. No other budget review took place. All three of the budgets they supplied are just as the copy before you, only what they provided to me were all stamped “proposed”.

The budget to be presented for your approval has a cover page indicating that it is for fiscal year 2022-2023. Further evidence they do not understand what they are trying to do. Their fiscal year is the same as a calendar year according to the Audit. Yet they appear to be trying to combine 2 years or at least more than one 12-month period in the budget for approval. That is completely improper. The budget before you has an increase in expenditures of 42% over FY 2021. Proposed $5,373,738 vs $3,775,930, an increase of $1,573,728. No explanation is provided for the huge increase.

The District has a Fund Balance of nearly $10 million dollars, three times their average annual expenditures. That represents at least 6 times the Fund Balance to Expenditures ratio of all other Aransas County governmental bodies. And they want to increase spending by 42%.

There are only two possible explanations for the lack of information provided:

  1. They don’t have a clue as to their responsibilities with respect to the budget and do not understand the process.
  2. They believe that they operate in a vacuum and are not responsible for providing good financial information to the public.

 

I urge you to reject their budget request until they can properly justify it. What they have asked you to do is an embarrassment and frankly shows they do not respect your position. 

 

(Editor’s note: Technically speaking, the District submitted to the Court certain required information in connection with the District’s requested property tax rate. The Commissioners Court does not have authority to approve or set the Navigation District’s Budget; however, by State statute, the Court has absolute discretion over the amount of the Navigation District’s property tax rate. Since every government entity’s tax rate is based on a budget, one must reasonably conclude that the only way the Court could make an informed decision on setting the tax rate is to have a District budget in front of it, which would presumably justify the tax rate requested, or cause the Court to set a lower or different tax rate.)