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Difficult-to-track city money: Corpus Christi auditing a fund that supports parks

Change is now in effect on how Community Enrichment Fund is spent
city of corpus christi
Posted at 1:23 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 09:40:02-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There is a money mess within Corpus Christi.

The city’s auditor’s office is tracking down whether close to $3 million is being spent properly — money that makes up the Community Enrichment Fund, which is used for parks.

City leaders currently describe the CEF as a finance nightmare. Fixing it could be a dream come true for neglected parks like Corpus Christi’s west side baseball complex. In October, the park looked even more abandoned and overgrown.

“It’s tough to swallow,” said Lupe Ramirez at the time.

This could be why park neglect is plaguing certain areas: city leaders are working to untangle the CEF.

“For many many years we have neglected our parks,” said Corpus Christi Dist. 5 City Councilman Gil Hernandez.

The CEF is a collection of fees taken from developers who build neighborhoods in the city. That money goes to improving local parks.

“Because as you build more residential structures throughout the city, we gotta ensure there’s still open air for people to recreate and play,” said Corpus Christi Asst. City Manager Neiman Young,

Here is the problem: there is a complicated formula for how those fees are calculated and spent, which is making it difficult to track who paid what — and where the money is supposed to go.

“It really makes it challenging to be transparent to, not only the community, but the development community that’s actually contributing to the fund,” he said.

Now, this fund is being reviewed.

“We were auditing the actual funds for how they were spending money,” Hernandez said.

So far, auditors discovered more than $1 million of it was sent to the new Cole Park Pier — money some say could have gone a long way on the west side.

“The kids on this side of town aren’t provided the same opportunities that are on the other side of town,” Ramirez said.

Young said he discovered the money mess a year ago.

City staff are now digging up 14 years of records for clarity on how the CEF formerly was managed.

“At the end of the day, we just want to make sure we’re making improvements in parks across the city,” Young said.

The big change in effect since the city started reviewing the CEF pertains to how future money will be distributed.

Fees collected from developers used to only go to parks within a five-mile radius. That format now makes up 11 different zones.

Meanwhile, the CEF is still under audit. The work should be done by June. That is when city leaders will make their next move and officially know whether certain areas of the city missed out on park funding because of money mismanagement.

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