By Becky Brewster
Culberson County Commissioners met in Regular Session on February 13 to learn the results of the County’s audit. According to Rick Knapp, outside auditor for the County, the County is in “a solid cash position.” Knapp presented the audit report for the fiscal year ending Sept 30, 2016, noting that the County had “a good year” with an “unqualified opinion.” He reported that there were no significant difficulties, the cash position was better than last year, and the debt was low. As the County completed the year, its governmental funds reported a combined fund balance of $5,717,867 compared to $4,933,580 in the prior year. This puts the County in a stable financial position.
Knapp also reviewed the management letter to the County acknowledging concern with issues not resolved from many years ago, noting that he will work with County staff to clear the old information from the books. Knapp noted a finding with the payroll budget explaining that every 11th year, an entity that pays biweekly will end up with a 27th payroll for the year rather than the usual 26. This extra pay period was not provided for in the budget. He also made recommendations to amend the budget prior to paying for unforeseen items rather than splitting the costs among accounts. Knapp expressed appreciation to County Auditor Mark Cabezuela and County Treasurer Susie Hinojos for their efforts in completing the audit.
The Commissioners then reviewed and approved the preliminary plans for the concession stand/restroom renovations at the Veteran’s Memorial Park. This will clear the way for the final plans and specifications to be developed for the solicitation of bids for the construction. The project is being funded by a Texas Community Development Block Grant through the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Court also approved submission and payment of budgeted draw requests.
The Court approved a resolution to apply for a HOME reservation agreement through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in an effort to receive additional funding for housing reconstruction. The current HOME program will reconstruct four houses with construction beginning this spring; however, there are applicants on the waiting list that qualify for the program once funds are available. The Commissioners approved an agreement with Becky Brewster for the preparation of the application.
Becky Brewster reported on the dire financial status of the Rainbow Express Depot Day Care Center, noting that issues with the Child Care Services (CCS) program has severely impacted the cash flow of the facility. Until recently, the program had a rural set-aside that would place qualified children into daycare immediately. Now, the rural day cares are being combined with the City of El Paso, and these children are being placed on a waiting list for services that often exceeds three thousand children needing services. CCS funding has dropped from over $55,000 in 2013 to less than $25,000 in 2016 to an estimate of less than $10,000 for 2017. Unless something is changed at the regional or state level, the waiting list issue could soon put the day care center out of business. The City and the County both provide financial support to the Day Care Center, and the County provides and maintains the facility. However, in light of the reduction in CCS funding, the current allotments are not enough to maintain operations. An emergency funding request has been submitted to the City as well as a budget request increase for the next fiscal year beginning April 1, 2017. But there is not enough cash to see the operations through to April. Brewster noted that she has served as Director of the facility since 1991 because her elementary teaching certificate allows her to meet the minimum qualifications to serve as Director, noting that she has continued to serve in this capacity for several years without pay. She stated that she would continue to serve as Director of the facility in order to keep it open if the City and County felt that the need for a day care center was critical to the quality of life in the community and would provide funding to keep the doors open. The County approved an emergency funding allotment of $9,000 to ensure operations through March 30 while other funding options are explored.
In other County business, the Court also
• Conducted an Executive Session with no action following in open session.
• Approved a resolution in opposition to SearchTX at the recommendation of County Clerk Linda McDonald.
• Received an Audit report from the Sheriff on the Special Law Enforcement Account.
• Approved a ground lease agreement for the airport hangar with Gary Jackson.
• Approved payment of $2,450 to Marcial Gonzalez for work done at the airport.
• Approved leasing the two RV spaces at the airport for $100/month to law enforcement personnel who will serve as security.
• Learned that the Boys and Girls Club of Rural West Texas has been awarded a $20K grant.
• Learned that the airport lighting issue is being addressed with all but one strip of lights (which need transformers) in operation.
• Learned that District Judge Ferguson has requested increased security at the Courthouse.
• Discussed “County Day” in Austin on February 28 and discussed travel plans for those wishing to attend the event.
• Postponed consideration of playground equipment installation at the City-County Park and the Day Care Center when estimates for labor exceeded $11K plus the cost of the fill material.
• Directed that County vehicles with expired tags get inspected.
• Heard reports on County Projects.
• Approved monthly payroll and expenses for January.