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14 Letter to the Editor | "What is Fair, Equitable, and Relevant?" by Tommy Moore, ACND Chairman

Posted Oct 17, 2014
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To the citizens of Aransas County,

I was surprised at the article in the October 11th Rockport Pilot regarding the lease between Fulton and the Navigation District. First I was surprised that Mayor Jimmy Kendrick had presented a proposal to council based on a passing conversation he and I had in the Fulton Harbor parking lot. While the $3500/ month was mentioned in the conversation, there was in no way any formal proposal on the table as represented. What was voted on?

Since 2000 the Navigation District has spent just under $200,000 on the bulkheads stabilizing the area north of Fulton Harbor and is currently looking at another $20-30,000 to repair washouts within the next year. Replacement cost today for the 900 ft of bulkhead would be around $1 million. The Navigation District manages and maintains the public waterfront facilities for the citizens of Aransas County and those waterfront facilities are why our visitors come to Aransas County. Maintaining waterfront facilities is an expensive proposition as any waterfront property owner knows.

I was also surprised at the various aldermen's comments regarding being "bullied" or being treated in some sort of unfair manner as well as their lack of understanding of how the Distrct operates under the Texas Water Code.

The County leases 2400 sq ft of land for the Aquarium at $1.50/sq ft. per year and the City of Rockport leases 400 sq ft of office space in the Bay Education Center at over $6/ sq.ft. per year. The Fulton lease covers bout 65,340 sq ft which at the same rate as the County would be $8,167 per month.

The Rockport Beach negotiations were mentioned as well. If any party was bullied in those negotiations it was certainly the District. History has shown that the District did the right thing for both Aransas County and Rockport tax payers as well as our visitors by taking a facility that was poorly maintained and losing $150,000 per year to being $54,000 in the black while at the same time spending over $150,000 on deferred maintenance.

By law, the ACND is supposed to get reasonable market rate for it's properties. Also, the tax rate for Districts such as ours is capped at $.10/100,000 valuation limiting the amount the district can raise from ad valorum taxes. The concept is that a District is started with tax money and begins to develop it's assets and then, if possible, it becomes self sufficient. The current tax rate for the District is right at $.05 including the repayment of the Rockport Harbor bonds. When I was elected to the Commission six years ago, tax revenue was about half of revenues at about $1 million dollars, today tax revenues remain the same and non tax revenues are about $1.5 million.

While over the years some commissioners did not necessarily work towards self sufficiency, over the last 10 years or so the Commission has been steadily focused toward that goal and the steady rise in non-tax revenues and solid reserves is proof.

It's the same old story, everyone screams that the District should get more money for their property until their lease is on the table and then they cite all of the old leases and straw dog arguments as a reason their rate should be lower.

As a Fulton resident and business owner with an understanding of the whole situation it disturbs me that this type of political grandstanding and disingenuous representation of the facts is how Mayor Jimmy Kendrick has chosen to negotiate this lease.

The District will continue to be up front and steadfast in doing the right thing for the taxpayers. We welcome any questions or input from the public on this or any other Navigation District matters. I can be reached on my cell phone at 361-463-6388 or email at tmoore@rockportadventures.com. This is obviously the only way our community will get both side of the issues.

Tommy Moore
Chairman
ACND


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14 comments:

said...

As a new resident to Rockport, I see that the Board has two choices. They can either raise the tax rate which would impact all of the citizens or increase the lease amount charged the City of Fulton. I realize that Fulton is a small city with a small tax base and that Paws and Taws is a valuable source of non-tax revenues. However, a solution must be reached that is fair to all citizens. As a result, the Fulton city council must approach negotiations regarding the lease with an open mind and be committed to securing an agreement that is consistent with those brokered for the Bay Center and the Aquarium.

said...

Whether the new rental rate was proposed formally or mentioned in passing conversation, it is clear that the Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) is on a path to drastically raise rental rates to serve its bottom line. I understand the ACND must pay for the maintenance of waterfront facilities, but at what ultimate cost to the community of Rockport-Fulton?

The waterfront is the reason many people (including myself) visit, but it isn't the ONLY reason. ACND isn't the only organization that works hard to promote tourism, activities and attractions for residents and visitors. Many organizations that contribute to the quality of life in our community depend on places like Paws & Taws for their activities. This is the very reason the rental rates are low for those entities. If Paws & Taws disappears because it can't afford an astronomical hike in rent, how is the community as a whole better off?

The path ACND is taking will not just affect Paws & Taws. The Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, the Art Museum, Bay Education Center, the Festival Grounds (where SeaFair, Market Day, Fishing Tournaments and the Art Festival take place) also have the potential of being affected. If ACND approaches every negotiation with others leasing its property this way, is ACND prepared to witness and be the reason for their disappearance? Is the community better off with only having businesses that can pay high rent on the waterfront? Are we prepared to see our beloved harbors, museums and recreational areas be replaced with hotels, condos and for-profit businesses? Will this make Rockport-Fulton a more attractive place to visit?

And it's about more than just ACND land. The ACND, even though it was denied its request to receive Hotel Occupancy Tax funds from the City of Rockport and Town of Fulton, is determined to acquire these tax funds anyway – not by the legal authority it has to administer taxes itself (the ACND is a taxing entity) – but instead by taking revenue away from the entities leasing its land, which will in turn cause those entities to significantly reduce their presence and growth in our community, if not disappear completely. The HOT Funds that the City of Rockport and Town of Fulton receive are disbursed back into the community's various organizations that depend on these funds to continue their activities. The ACND has its own way of generating tax revenue, and it should not be cutting into HOT tax revenues that are meant to serve non-profit and non-taxing entities.

The ACND seems to believe that the entities leasing on their land exist only to balance the ACND's bottom line. I respectfully disagree -- the ACND exists to maintain waterfront facilities for the good of all Aransas County citizens and visitors, and it should be doing all it can to protect the entities on its land that make Rockport-Fulton such a special place.

The solution is not to become a greedy landlord, pursuing a money grab of drastic and unreasonable proportion. In the long run, the citizens of Aransas County will not be better served by the ACND's current path, if it is to pursue massive increases in rent from entities that cannot afford them. It will severely and negatively affect what makes Rockport-Fulton an attractive place to live and visit in the first place. Let's hope a solution can be reached that benefits the community as a whole, and not just ACND.

said...

It is a shame that they have decided to raise rents to outrageous levels. We the taxpayers pay their bills, yet have a hard time affording to use the facilities that we pay for. I find 600.00 to rent the pavilion for a day outrageous.

said...

As you must know the ACND is governed by law ( water code) where they are tasked to cover the cost of maintenance or repair of the land. We have been told our whole life that nothing is free. If anyone thinks the the rate of 2 dollars per year is fair to the taxpayer is false. Someone will need to fill the void where the user of the land did not cover.. If the ACND do not raise the money from the user of the land it will come from you( the local taxpayer) Plus there is a limit to how much the ACND can tax 10 cents per 100 of valuation.
The Paws and Taws must be managed to cover its cost that includes the land it sets on ! The rates charged must equal the expense. You cant blame the ACND for your situation..The ACND are doing what is required of them by law of the state of Texas. Sorry Fulton these are the facts..

said...

I would gladly pay upped taxes if it means it would save non-profits such as the Maritime Museum, Bay Edu. Center, the Art Center, and the Aquarium. Paws and Taws maybe considered 'for-profit' but this precedence will affect these non-profits listed. Those non-profits will have to move off of this land, drastically changing the landscape of Rockport-Fulton forever!

The law (water code) that you mention gives ACND the ability to tax the people. ACND hasn't even attempted to raise taxes like they should BEFORE spiking the rent of these organizations over 800% of what they were paying. And ACND asking for HOT funds is laughable. I'm so glad they were denied as they should have been. Tax the people for the communal good.

said...

OK tax the people of Aransas county to cover the cost. So what happens when you hit the 10cent limit ? Or a catastrophic event hits our coast and there is no room to pass a Bond to fix the damage to all the infrastructure effected ? The Law still says lease should cover the cost of the expenses. The Leases must increase as do the expenses over time.. The HOT funds could have helped with the expense of the increased tourist or public use. But going to the well of just tax the people is a short sided argument but will fail in the long run.. the tax limit will come as the users and expenses increase.. Ignoring the law is your solution ? the water code is clear ...

said...

Not Anonymous BUT an Aransas County Tax Payer and I'm shocked that ANYONE would advocate "TAX THE PEOPLE". Sounds like Washington.

said...

Obviously you don't work for a non-profit. There is no way they will be able to pay 30-40,000 a year. So then what? You're willing to lose all of those organizations?--or at least have them move away from the beach? Don't you want to preserve Rockport-Fulton's rich non-profit landscape? They make us who we are.

said...

Doesn't matter what you call it: taxes or higher rent, both options will go into the ACND piggy bank and all of us will end up paying for it, one way or another.

said...

Anonymous: So you are saying the local taxpayers should be forced to support non-profits via confiscated tax dollars whether they agree with the non-profits intentions or not? I believe non-profits should be funded through fund raisers and private donations, not tax dollars. The funding of non-profits via tax dollars ultimately brings about crony capitalism. Just look at the Chamber of Commerce and their $50 million campaign to "crush the Tea Party". Sounds like the only "rich non-profit landscape" is the Chamber of Commerce.

said...

Joe, I think you are a little off base. First of all, most the non-profits in question (on the Navigation Dist. land) are 501c3s like the Maritime Museum, Art Center, Bay Education Center and the Aquarium--non-profit CHARITABLE organizations. Organizations that run summer programs for children, or FREE educational programs for adults. I sincerely hope you aren't against that. The Chamber is a 501c4 (not 3). I have no idea what you are talking about re: their so-called campaign to "crush the Tea Party." State your source. They bring in people to promote fracking, so I hardly think they would be anti-Tea Party. I think you may need to check your facts. (But on a side-note, I do agree with you, I wish they would remain out of politics.) Many times though as tax payers we pay for things we don't 100% agree with, that's how it works. I believe that the non-profits such as the ones I listed at the top are why many visitors come to Rockport and spend money on hotels, providing the money available for HOT funds in the first place.

said...

Anonymous: Whether I am "for or against" any of the charities you state would be a subjective comment and not relevant. I simply believe charities/non-profits should be funded privately and should survive or fail on their ability to raise funds from the individuals who are passionate about that particular charity.

As far as sources: The original story on the Chamber of Commerce campaign to "crush the tea party" was in the December 25, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal. My apologies that I can not find that story however below are a few links stating the same:
http://townhall.com/news/around-the-web/2013/12/26/chamber-of-commerce-to-spend-50-million-to-crush-tea-party-n1768732

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/01/08/Chamber-of-Commerce-Pres-Wants-Tea-Party-to-Feel-Some-Heat

said...

What's irrelevant is a story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which has nothing to do with this discussion. Hotel Occupancy Tax is distributed to non-profits according to the law to promote tourism. Rockport-Fulton's economy relies heavily on tourist dollars, and the non-profits provide events and activities that draw people to visit and thus spend money here. I would argue the charm of Rockport-Fulton comes from its community non-profits. They promote health and well being, creativity, education and history, science and culture, and give our population many reasons to be proud of this wonderful community.

Non-profits all around the world are supported by government, corporate and private funding. If you ever worked for a non-profit I'm sure you would understand. Non-profits wouldn't be able to do the great work they do without a diverse base of support. ACND is not a non-profit. They are not eligible to receive Hotel Occupancy Tax funds. They are a taxing entity themselves.

A good question is, why was the rent for Paws & Taws $2 in the first place? Surely $2 didn't pay for maintenance even 30 years ago. I suspect it was because the ACND at the time were being good stewards of their properties for the good of the community, not exploiting their properties for a profit. If ACND is $50,000+ in the black, why do they need more money?

said...

Great points, Jessie.



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