August has burned away and early September is here. I trust your summer was productive and your fall will allow a change of pace. The agency is preparing for a full season of policy considerations.
The regular quarterly meeting of the Board was held on August 17 and we achieved some important milestones in our work that day. We greatly appreciate the time and focus the Board members and the agency staff gives to this agency to accomplish our mission. We look forward to ongoing opportunities to improve both the quality of protection we afford to Texans and the service we provide to license holders.
We welcomed our new Deputy Commissioner, Tony Slagle. His appointment was effective August 1st, but he had earlier immersed himself into the details of his new responsibilities and began implementing improvements in frontline customer service. Adding some new features to our call center software tools has cut the average “hold time” in half and doubled the number of calls the agency can handle. This new approach holds great promise and we welcome the additional focus that makes these results possible.
We are pleased to announce that the agency has won, not one, but two ARELLO Communications Awards this year! We won an award for our new integrated communications strategy, which includes our new targeted email messaging strategy, three newsletters, and robust social media outreach. We have also been recognized for our Board and Commission meeting communications, which includes our live stream webcast, and the format of our meeting video minutes uploaded to our website and tagged to quickly give our constituents easy and full access to everything happening in our open meetings. Both are examples of the innovation that the agency tries to bring to all of our communication functions.
One of the most important things about our August meeting is that we adopt a budget for the next fiscal year. Along with reflecting our approved update to our Memorandum of Understanding with TREC, our budgets also reflect our priorities in that we first take care of the team members, then our technology tools and our routine operating expenses. Then we set aside an operating reserve of 3-4 months of expenses. In addition, we have amounts dedicated by law to educational uses. Then any surplus funds may be considered for other uses. This year the Commission dedicated $1.3 Million to accelerate over 20 technology projects to be identified by staff that will directly enhance our customer service experience. We are able to do this only because of the agency’s SDSI status granted in 2011.
We also proposed some rules to enhance our ability to manage the professional education of appraisers much better than we currently can by approving providers and courses to be offered in Texas. We also discussed at length some proposed changes to the Mentor guidelines and asked our Enforcement Committee to determine how it is to be applied moving forward in certain cases.
The agency’s Sunset review is still ongoing. Agency staff has been working hard to provide information as requested by Sunset staff. This process may be challenging at times, but we believe the agency will come out on the other side much stronger, more efficient and more fully equipped to continue our dual mission of serving the people of Texas by ensuring qualified and ethical real estate service providers and promoting economic opportunity. The Sunset report on our agency is due to be published in October. Stay tuned.
As always, we look forward to your participation and input into all of our policy discussions. We welcome you to look at rules that have been proposed and send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for our review and consideration. We also respond to invitations to speak to groups of license holders all across Texas. Know that we are always eager to talk with you about any areas of concern you may have.