That reality became apparent Tuesday evening during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Beeville Economic Improvement Corporation board at Beeville’s Community Center.
EIC board member Jessy T. Garza delivered a detailed report on how he believed the money derived from the city’s 4B sales tax to fund economic development should be budgeted.
As Garza completed his presentation, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Scotten asked him how the figures would impact the possibility of hiring an economic development director to handle the administrative needs of the EIC board.
“We’ve recognized that if we have any expectations to spend any money on an economic development director, it doesn’t leave a lot,” Garza told Scotten.
Garza said that if the EIC were to use 4 percent of the 4B funds after meeting all the other requests for EIC assistance, “it doesn’t leave a lot for an economic development director.”
Councilman David Carabajal, who had mentioned at an earlier council meeting that the EIC would have to obtain council approval to spend more than $10,000, said he was impressed with Garza’s budget report.
“I wish we’d have had these figures before the meeting,” Carabajal said.
Garza said he was still working on the figures just five minutes before the meeting began.
“Joe Montez is our economic director out at the BDA (Bee Development Authority)” said EIC board member Dave Moore, “and he does an excellent job. I think that money could be better spent elsewhere,” he said of what it would cost to hire an economic development director for the city.
“What does that do to you?” Councilwoman Libby Spires asked City Manager Tom Ginter. His office has been handling the administrative work for the EIC board.
“With Deborah on board, we’ll do okay,” Ginter answered.
He was talking about the city’s new finance director, Deborah Ballí.
“So a pure economic director position is being thrown out now?” Spires asked.
“I don’t think that’s feasible,” Garza said.
Ginter assured both the council and the EIC board that the city staff could handle the duties.
“We’ll work it out, we’ll work it out,” he said.
Carabajal suggested that Ginter could use some of the city staff people to assist him in undertaking the EIC duties.
“We do that now,” Ginter said.
During his budget presentation, Garza said the city needs to designate a percentage of its approximately $600,000 a year in 4B sales tax funds for certain types of projects.
He recommended setting aside a percentage of those funds to be granted in three categories.
Those would include “direct” spending, meaning granting funds that would directly generate jobs. Into that category he placed requests from the BDA and businesses like the new Navy-Army Credit Union building, the new funeral chapel north of the city and a proposed apartment complex. Those projects will provide jobs or provide badly needed housing for the city.
The next category would be “indirect” spending. That would include projects that would not create a certain number of jobs but would obviously impact economic development, like the new irrigation system in the downtown area.
The third category would be for “quality of life” projects. Those would include improvements for city parks and requests similar to those from the Hall-Rialto Preservation Association.
Garza recommended setting aside 65 percent of the 4B money for spending in the direct category and reserving 17.5 percent of the funds for each of the other two categories.
The EIC board member said a subcommittee of other board members had met Monday to consider a request for $450,000 from the Rialto group and had decided to recommend that the city fund $150,000 of that request.
“You guys are in the driver’s seat,” Garza told the council. He said the City Council could decide to reduce the amount to be spent in the first category and spend more on parks.
“That would not create jobs, but it would impact this community significantly,” Garza said. “If we spend more on parks, it will reduce the amount that can be spent on the Brookfield Apartments or the BDA.”
“This is a good basis to start with,” Carabajal told Garza.
“There is a real tension here,” Garza then said, explaining how spending on one area would affect spending in another.
Garza went on to explain the need to tighten up the requirements of those applying for 4B funds.
He also said the council needs to consider how it wants to spend the money in the future. He recommended changing the amount spent on direct job-producing projects to 70 percent.
Just before the meeting adjourned with no action being taken on any of the recommendations Garza had outlined, Moore said he had been embarrassed to learn that the City Council had no idea that the EIC board had been considering hiring a city economic director. He recommended that the EIC board and the council hold more joint meetings so each body would know what the other is doing.