The extended heat of August has been relieved a bit by rains in early September. I hope the typical market frenzy of summer has moderated a bit so you can focus on your professional development as well.
The regular quarterly meeting of the Commission was held on August 13 and we achieved some important milestones in our work that day. We greatly appreciate the time and focus the Commissioners and the agency staff give 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 Executive Director, 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 we can handle. This new approach holds great promise for our agency and we welcome the additional focus that make 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. We will be explaining these programs to other organization members at the next ARELLO national meeting next month.
One of the most important things about our August meeting is that we adopt a budget for the next fiscal year. 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. Only then are any surplus funds considered for other uses. This year we 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 our SDSI status granted in 2011.
Another benefit of our SDSI status is the ability to return to license holders a portion of the fees we collect that are not needed for operations. The Commission has proposed reducing the sponsorship fee from $20 to $10. This will be considered for adoption at our next meeting in November. We hope you approve.
One other important issue we considered was s series of recommendations and progress reports coming from our Broker Responsibility Working Group. We accepted a recommendation to clarify certain areas of broker supervision policies and practices, including designating all “team” leads as “supervisors” required to take the Broker Responsibility course and training agents in new practices through mentoring.
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’ll have a booth at the upcoming TAR Convention in San Antonio so feel free to stop by and visit us. We will also respond to invitations to speak to groups of license holders all across Texas. Hope to see you soon and talk with you about any areas of concern you may have.