$4.4 million sale builds up city’s economic nest egg

HARLINGEN — The city’s economic development coffers are $4.4 million fatter.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s sale of its share of a building to Texas State Technical College will boost the EDC’s budget along with the Harlingen Community Improvement Board’s fund balance.

In June, the EDC sold its share of the University Center, where its offices are located, to TSTC for $4.4 million, Raudel Garza, the EDC’s executive director, said yesterday.

Last week, city commissioners approved a $492,500 transfer to the Community Improvement Board, whose eight-cent sales tax helps fund so-called quality-of-life projects, such as the new $16.7 million Harlingen Convention Center.

Meanwhile, EDC officials added $3.9 million to the agency’s fund balance, whose half-cent sales tax funds economic development projects.

Garza, who was on vacation, did not have information readily available on the EDC’s fund balance.

However, the city’s 2017-2018 annual financial audit reported the EDC’s fund balance stood $4.9 million at the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the Community Improvement Board’s fund balance dropped from $6.38 million to $2.6 million earlier this year after funding parts of the convention center project and the project to turn Lon C. Hill Park into a destination park.

The $4.4 million sale compensated the EDC and the Community Improvement Board for their help in funding the building’s construction.

The EDC’s offices will remain in the building prominently standing toward the college’s entrance, City Manager Dan Serna said.

According to EDC Board President Mickey Boland, the EDC will start paying rent to TSTC. No further details were released.

In 2011, the EDC earmarked $4.1 million while the Community Improvement Board tapped more than $900,000 to help TSTC fund the $4.4 million construction of the two-story, 38,000-square-foot building at 2424 Boxwood St.

“It’s a fair offer based on fair market value,” Garza said. “We had several appraisals.”

Serna said TSTC officials approached the city with the offer.

“They felt they wanted control of the building and having us as partners wasn’t control of the building,” Garza said.

Serna said TSTC plans to expand into the building.

“After discussions with TSTC, they shared a great deal of interest in acquiring the property for the growth of the campus,” Serna said.

Serna said the EDC didn’t propose the deal to fatten its fund balance.

“The EDC has a healthy fund balance,” he said. “It has nothing to do with pumping additional revenue into the EDC. We have long-standing partnership with TSTC. This is another example of that.”

At TSTC, Provost Cledia Hernandez said college officials plan to expand the services in the University Center, which houses the work training program.

“As enrollment grows, we’re looking at how we can serve our students,” she said. “We’re always looking at different program offerings. We’re always busting at the seams trying to better serve our students.”

The University Center serves as “a one-stop solution for transfer and returning students who would like to continue their education,” according to the college’s website.

The center works with universities such as the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Wayland Baptist University to offer students courses.