Q: Why such an aggressive application schedule?
A: TxDOT wants to award the grants and distribute funds as soon as possible. While a request to extend the application period has been submitted to TxDOT, as of press time the current deadline remains Feb. 14.
Q: Can we set the date for the public hearing without having the CETRZ mapped yet, as long as we have that info ready FOR the hearing?
A: Time is of the essence, therefore it is recommended to set the date, publish the seven-day notice, and conduct the public hearing as soon as possible to inform the public of the intent to form a CETRZ. The CETRZ boundaries are not required until the Commissioners Court adopts the order at least 30 days after the public hearing.
Q: Do you have to have your revised annual report done before the order adopting the CETRZ?
A: No, you must provide the annual report with your application for the grant.
Q: What is the base year if the order is adopted in 2014?
A: Since the 2013 tax year will continue until the 2014 appraisal roll is adopted in August, 2013 will be the BASE YEAR for the CETRZ.
Q: Can TxDOT meet these timelines?
A: TxDOT is statutorily required to review all grant applications within 30 days.
Q: Who actually sits on the CETRZ for each area?
A: The Commissioners Court appoints up to three oil and gas representatives who perform company activities in the county and are local taxpayers, and two members from the public.
Q: Regarding “up to three” members in the previous question: Can that be zero?
A: Yes, but it’s not recommended. If no oil and gas representatives are available, we recommend that additional public members be appointed to complete the committee.
Q: Can a Commissioner sit on the advisory committee?
A: The statute does not specifically prohibit it, but there is a common law doctrine against self-appointment.
ESTABLISHING A ZONE
Q: Could the CETRZ, in essence, be the entire county?
A: Yes, a CETRZ could be the entire county, but that is not recommended because by doing so all of the increase in appraised taxable value would be dedicated to transportation purposes, only.
Q: Does the CETRZ funding apply to engineering, right of way, utility relocation and bridges?
A: Yes, both CETRZ and grant funding may be utilized for any costs to complete a transportation infrastructure project.
Q: If we have multiple projects, could we create multiple CETRZs? One for each project?
A: Yes, you could create multiple CETRZs for each project, or create one for all projects. TxDOT transportation grant projects do not have to be within the CETRZ. Only one CETRZ in the county is required for TxDOT grant eligibility.
Q: Does this include total appraised value and real property value? Does it include mineral values?
A: This includes all increased appraised values within the CETRZ.
Q: Counties with no oil or gas production and/or activity would not be eligible, correct?
A: No, see list of county allocations. The expansion of the formula to include overweight truck permits resulted in some grant allocation for all counties, although the greater allocation remains in those with oil and gas activity.
Q: How many of the 254 Texas counties are eligible?
Q: Are funds eligible for incorporated county roads?
A: The grant funds may be utilized for any county road or state highway project approved by Commissioners Court.
Q: What is the source of the grant money?
A: At the request of counties, the Legislature appropriated funds principally to help alleviate degradation caused by oil and gas production.
Q: How long does each county have to use the money once awarded?
A: Counties will expend funds and then submit proof of qualified expenditures to TxDOT for reimbursement. Although not limited by the statute, counties should expect to utilize the grant funds by Aug. 31, 2015.
Q: Are the grant funds divided by precinct or given to the precinct that creates the CETRZ?
A: The grant funds would reimburse the county for qualified expenditures on projects approved by Commissioners Court, regardless of precinct.
Q: Can you explain using 5 percent of the grant money towards administration of the CETRZ?
A: Since there is some expense involved in creating and maintaining the CETRZ, the Legislature authorized counties to utilize up to 5 percent of the grant award (not to exceed $250,000) for CETRZ administration.
Q: If the counties don’t use their possible funds, will the funds be put back into the “pool” to be available to other counties that are participating?
A: There is some question as to how unexpended grant monies will be allocated, but TxDOT has indicated the excess funds will be redistributed at some point.
Q: Is this the only time grant funds will be available, or is this something that will happen every couple of years?
A: At the moment, this is all of the money available. If the program is properly utilized, counties could use this as a success story and go back to the Legislature next session to request more money. Counties may expend their funds as determined by the budget, but only expenditures incurred for a transportation infrastructure project after TxDOT grant approval will be eligible for grant reimbursement.
DISSOLVING A CETRZ
Q: Can the CETRZ be dissolved at some point in the future?
A: The CETRZ will be automatically dissolved in 10 years if it has no active projects.
COUNTY ROAD CONDITION REPORTS
Q: In a unit system should our engineer do a separate report for each precinct, or one for the whole county?
A: The entire county road system.
Q: Does the report need to include the incorporated areas, or can this be just for unincorporated areas?
A: The report should include all county roads, culverts and bridges. The statute does not require any particular detail concerning the condition of each road, culvert and bridge.
Q: Will the projects need to go through the federal NEPA process?
A: Since no federal funds are utilized in the grant project, no environmental study is required. Normal environmental construction requirements will apply during work on each project.
Q: To receive these funds, we must be prepared to provide a 20 percent county match, correct?
A: Yes. When the grant is approved, the county may initiate work on the approved projects. As funds are expended, the county will submit monthly payment requests to TxDOT for reimbursement of 80 percent of the amount expended (90 percent for an economically disadvantaged county). TxDOT has promised a two-week payment response. However, these projects may be carried forward and performed in the next fiscal year.
Q: So is this basically another tax? Otherwise, why do I have to create another account for money that is to be paid back only after expended?
A: This is not a new tax; this is only dedicating future value increases within the CETRZ. Creating a CETRZ will not increase any taxes. Your county would realize these increases normally in the annual budget process, which includes the 8 percent rollback rate. By dedicating the increased values within the CETRZ to transportation projects, you will avoid applying the increases to the effective rate and the rollback rate.
Q: Is the tax assessor going to break out the funds to go into new account?
A: Yes. Based upon the values certified by the Central Appraisal District, the county will separate funds from increased values within the CETRZ into the increment fund. H