Rene Mascorro emphatically said he was not at the special council meeting in the capacity of county judge – Mascorro is the Refugio County judge – or representative of the county commissioners court, but rather he was there as a parent and as the individual who took on the stadium improvement project after Jack Sportsman’s untimely death.
“The county is not doing anything and has nothing to do with this project,” Mascorro said.
Two possible sources of funding from the city were explored, but neither was available to fund the school district stadium.
First mentioned was the hotel occupancy tax money, funds the state sends back to the city from the city’s motels and hotels from taxes on rooms rented.
But the state’s Tax Code 351 prohibits hotel tax money for stadiums that are not owned by the city and also stipulates that a city-owned stadium has to have at least 10 district, regional, state or national events in the previous year in addition to other requirements.
Also, records have to be kept for five years on how much revenue the funded organization or entity earns. That revenue has to at least equal the amount of hotel tax funding or the city would have to pay back the hotel tax money to the state.
Also explored was the city’s 4B fund, a fund that originated out of an ordinance to increase the city’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 8.25 percent. The money from sales tax was earmarked for economic development.
Councilman Lenny Anzaldua said the 4B fund money would not be available for the stadium improvement project.
Mascorro made a presentation he said he’s given numerous times to individuals, businesses and corporations in the county.
Mascorro said the purpose of the stadium improvement program was to reduce costs to what is a significant financial burden to the school district.
Specifically, the first phase of the project is to replace the grass field with artificial turf.
Mascorro said the grass field currently is replaced annually at a cost of $50,000 a year to the school district.
He noted that the soil is different than other places and that under the topsoil is what is called hardpan – a dense soil hard as concrete.
“Ideally, you want to play on grass, not artificial turf,” he said.
But the stadium’s soil is prohibitive because of the salt content that happens to be in the water, as well.
“It was built on a saltwater disposal back in the 1950s,” he said. “Hitting the ground is like hitting cement.”
Mascorro said artificial turf would lower the long-term cost of the turf. He said the artificial turf would cost $100,000 to replace after 10 years. That’s $10,000 a year. this cost could be budgeted by the school district.
However, initial installation of the artificial turf is estimated at $1 million.
Mascorro said the school district has committed $250,000 to the project. It was noted that the money is in the district’s fund balance.
He said Hilcorp Energy Company is the largest donor at this point, but other donors have narrowed the goal of $1 million to about $80,000.
“We’ve raised over 95 percent to finish the project,” he said.
Mascorro explained that the Refugio school district is subject to the Robin Hood plan in the state’s education code.
So with the oil and gas boom, many corporations and businesses are seeing great profits and bringing more value to the school district.
However, the school district has to pay the state under the wealth-equalization plan (Robin Hood).
“So our kids are being punished,” he said.
He said it was only right that the corporations contribute to the district.
Mascorro also said replacing the grass turf with artificial turf would bring playoff games to Refugio and equate to an economic benefit.
He said at least three or four playoff games could be hosted in Refugio, noting that the stadium has 7,500 seats, one of the largest in its classification.
Beth Linscomb, in the audience, commented that the $1 million would make a huge difference in the education of Refugio kids.
And Patty Shay questioned if something of equal value could be done for girls, as well. She mentioned Title IX, which guarantees equality for girls.
Mascorro said the district was investigated for Title IX violations and was exonerated.
Regardless, Councilman Joey Heard said the project did not qualify for hotel occupancy tax money.
“It’s out of the question,” Heard said.
Councilman Dale Skrobarcek agreed as did Mayor Rey Jaso.
The fact that the council granted $10,000 in hotel occupancy tax to the Refugio Little League was brought up. Councilwoman Karen Watts pointed out that the city owns the Little League park.
But the park may not have met other criteria.
“We probably have given out money we shouldn’t have,” Heard said.
Anzadua suggested putting money in the general fund for the project during the city’s budget planning if the idea fits.
Anzaldua made the motion to table the issue and schedule a workshop to see what the council could do. Watts seconded.
Mascorro said he would continue his effort to raise the money needed for the stadium.
“Everything I do, I do 110 percent,” he said.
He vowed to get the money eventually.