SAN ANTONIO -

Goodwill Industries of San Antonio spent $1,056,789 on travel in 2012, according to IRS records filed for that year.

"I agree that travel cost might seem a bit overwhelming unless you really know what all is included,” said Lisa Brunsvold, vice president of business development of Goodwill Industries of San Antonio.

Available IRS records show that in 2011, Goodwill of Central Texas, which based in Austin, spent $825,935 on travel.

Goodwill of Dallas spent $742,933 on travel that same year and Goodwill of Houston spent $134,536 on travel.

During the investigation, the Defenders found that while those expenses are noted as “travel” on IRS form 990, they include much more than the cost of traveling around and outside of San Antonio.

“By the IRS definition, the travel is much more than travel,” said Brunsvold. “It also covers fuel costs, insurance, parking, repairs, maintenance, taxes, and any registration fees.”

In 2012, Goodwill of San Antonio spent $424,019 on fuel and $101,125 on vehicle repairs and maintenance.

Part of that cost, the Defenders discovered, goes toward vehicles used to maintain the grounds of Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and San Antonio Military Medical Center.

Through a government contract, Goodwill of San Antonio is charge of maintaining the landscaping at those locations.

“That alone is about 3,000 football fields of acreage,” Brunsvold said.

Goodwill of San Antonio’s travel cost also includes $69,382 in parking.

The nonprofit pays for parking -- mostly at its downtown location -- for employees and students of its Good Careers Academy.

A spokesman for the non-profit watchdog www.charitynavigator.org agrees that over $1 million in travel costs does raise eyebrows.

"It did seem like it was considerably more,” said Sandra Minuitti, vice president and CFO of Charity Navigator. “But when you put it in perspective of its budget, it was pretty much in line with what the other locations were spending. It was about 2 percent of its budget."

The travel cost does include the expense of delivering donations to and from donation stations and Goodwill stores.

Another reason for the high expense, says Brunsvold, is the size of Goodwill of San Antonio’s service area.

It serves 24 counties stretching north to New Braunfels, south to Laredo and west to Del Rio.

Those counties include:

Kimble, Val Verde, Edwards, Real, Kerr, Bandera, Kendall, Comal, Guadalupe, Bexar, Medina, Uvalde, Kinney, Maverick, Zavala, Frio, Atascosa, Wilson, Karnes, Live Oak, McMullen, LaSalle, Dimmit, and Web.

Goodwill of Dallas serves seven counties and part of an eighth county, which include Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman, Navarro, Rains and part of Rockwall.

Goodwill of Houston serves seven counties, which are Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Austin, Galveston, Montgomery, and Walker.

Goodwill of Central Texas serves 15 counties including Mason, Llano, Gillespie, Burnet, Blanco, Williamson, Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop, Lee, Fayette, Gonzales, Lavaca and DeWitt.

Each Goodwill may be structured differently and provide different services, adds Brunsvold.

“Our mission is to change lives through the power of work, and our stores- and operating those stores successfully- is what allows us to provide those services in the community,” she said.

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.