In response to the commentary by Kelly de Schaun (“Park board has no designs on general fund revenue,” The Daily News, Nov. 10): Kelly de Schaun hasn’t seen much financial growth during her tenure.
As a graduate student at Texas A&M University at Galveston, I’ve extensively studied finances of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees. When I reached out to the park board for data, at first there was communication, then it ceased. So, I was forced to file a Public Information Act request for data.
My data was narrowed from 2012 to 2018, the six years under de Schaun. I examined three beach park revenues (Dellanera, Stewart and East Beach), hotel occupancy tax revenue, tourism development and beach maintenance funds.
My findings: The three parks’ combined revenues show the highest revenue generated was in 2012 at $3.5 million; lowest revenue was $2.1 million in 2016; and in 2018 the revenue was $2.8 million. Even after a doubling of the beach user fee in 2016, the park board is stagnant and cannot grow revenues for these parks past the high of 2012.
In beach maintenance, I found the total of beach maintenance funds (10th through 61st streets fund, plus beach cleaning) spent by the park board was an average of $3.16 million for 2012 to 2014, increased to an average of $4.5 million from 2015 to 2018. With an increase in beach maintenance expenditure, there’s no proof of the beach park revenue increases.
Notable is in 2015 after violations of the Clean Water Act and obtaining an after-the-fact permit, the park board was barred from using heavy equipment, yet the expenditures increased. How could there be an increase if it was barred from operating expensive machinery that caused erosion?
The most disturbing and contradicting is the hotel occupancy tax revenue. According to my Public Information Act request, and park board data, in 2012 the hotel occupancy tax revenue collected by the park board was $7.7 million and steadily increased to $12.5 million in 2018. What contradicts are various other documents represented by the city of Galveston and the park board showing other amounts of hotel occupancy tax revenue collected which are: $11.7 million in 2012 and increasing to $18.6 million in 2018. That’s $4.1 million and increasing to $6.2 million discrepancies from 2012 to 2018.
These discrepancies must be addressed. They show a lack of transparency. The hotel occupancy tax increases aren’t solely the park board’s doing; it’s a whole island effort. Increased hotel occupancy tax revenues span from Tilman Fertitta’s convention center to the added cruise ships in the past five years.
The only thing that has a statistically significant correlation to the hotel occupancy tax revenue is tourism development dollars spent by the park board. In looking at the performance of the park board, there’s lack of evidence to show that de Schaun, as director, has added significantly to the hotel occupancy tax base. She hasn’t increased revenue significantly past the 2012 mark for these named parks, but hey, y’all gave her a nice raise.