Restricted funds, grants, local matches, HOT tax — these terms can seem like a foreign language sometimes. Luckily, here at the park board we have a hardworking finance committee, led by a knowledgeable and experienced comptroller, to make sense of our organization’s operating budget.
The park board invited members of the community to a public workshop where they presented the 2017-18 operating budget. Held Sept. 6 at the Galveston Island Convention Center, the workshop gave members of the public a chance to see what park board departments are planning for the next fiscal year and where funding for those projects will come from.
Next year’s budget totals $32 million. It represents a 20 percent increase over the 2016-17 budget in part because of federal grants earmarked for beach nourishment the park board is slated to receive next year. Presenting the budget in a public forum not only encourages community participation, it provides the park board with the opportunity to be transparent in its business dealings.
“An annual budget is the single most important financial responsibility of a local government,” said Michael Moser, the park board’s comptroller and finance committee chairman. “The budget is the proof that officials and staff are held accountable as to how public funds are spent.”
This important responsibility was taken on by Moser and the park board’s finance committee. Committee members include Spencer Priest, Landry’s area director of revenue management; Rocky Sullivan, vice president of Sullivan Companies; Victor Viser, instructional assistant professor and assistant department head at Texas A&M University Galveston; Will Wright, director of communications and special events for the Galveston Historical Foundation; and committee chair John Zendt, president and CEO of Moody Gardens.
Together, staff and the committee navigated their way through the park board’s funding engines, which include state hotel occupancy tax revenue and beach user fee revenue. Additional funding comes from various grants and reimbursements that are earmarked for certain projects. The organization receives no property or sales taxes from the city of Galveston. The park board manages various funds, including tourism development, beach cleaning, beach patrol, debt service, grants, sand replenishment and general administration.
“We think the workshop is an excellent opportunity to shed light on the restrictive nature of the funds the park board receives,” park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said. “And it gives us the opportunity to discuss plans that affect both the residents and visitors here in Galveston.”
Those who were unable to attend the public workshop can view the budget at the park board’s website, www.galvestonparkboard.org.
Park board meetings are open to the public and the public may address the board of trustees during the meetings. Park board meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 1:30 p.m. at 601 Tremont St. If you are interested in seeing a park board issue discussed in this column, or if you have any questions, please send them my way. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.