PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
January 24, 2011
Present: Commissioners Eggers, Landt, Lewis, Rosenthal, Seffinger; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Gies
Absent: City Council Liaison Slattery
Rosenthal called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m. at the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer.
BUDGET PREPARATION AND PROCESS DISCUSSION
Robertson distributed a packet of budget information and said the Parks Commission budget presentation was scheduled for the evening of Monday, April 18. He referenced the list of adopted FY 2010-2011 commission goals and the list of capital improvement projects (CIP). He said the CIP list showed six years of projects for all City departments. He said that until two years ago the only authorized use of Food and Beverage Tax funds was land acquisition but the funds could now be used for development, planning, and major rehabilitation of Parks facilities. He said dollar figures on the CIP list were only staff estimates and the commission had the discretion of deciding what CIP projects to fund and when to fund them. Robertson said the CIP list could be accomplished using bonds, SDCs, and general tax dollars along with Food and Beverage receipts.
Robertson pointed out a budget impact of $64,870 that he indicated was a PERS (retirement system) adjustment occurring in reaction to volatile fluctuations in the stock market. He said insurance rates were expected to increase by 10-15% in the upcoming fiscal year. He said the City stated that the internal fees charged to Parks for services provided by the City to Parks (central service fees and fees for facilities, equipment, insurance, and fleet maintenance)—$525,350 in the current fiscal year—were $380,000 lower than actual costs. Robertson said he asked the City finance office to provide documentation to support that claim. He said an additional budget concern involved a lack of cost-of-living adjustments for Parks employees over the past two years. He said this put the commission in the position of having “bottom-up compression,” as the City’s Living Wage was $13.40 per hour, a higher rate than the starting wage of the Parks receptionist and park worker positions. He said he could submit a proposal for COLAs in FY 2011-2012 but the commission would need to decide whether they wanted to provide them and at what levels.
Gies said his resignation as Parks Superintendent would be effective February 1 but he was willing to serve as a contracted employee in the same position through March 31. Robertson said the commission would need to initiate a recruitment for that position and would also need to pay out Gies’s vacation leave bank and sick leave hours (between 101 and 1,000) into his HRA VEBA account, both of which would have budget implications. He said the current fiscal year goals assigned to Gies would be impacted by his departure. He asked the commission to participate in the recruitment and interviewing process.
Robertson asked the commission how they wished to proceed with their goal setting.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Commissioners discussed whether to have one-on-one goal setting sessions with Robertson or to meet as a group. After some debate they agreed to meet as a group rather than individually. Seffinger asked if objectives and benchmarks were assigned to goals. She said benchmarks could be helpful in measuring progress and gave the community the impression that the goals would be completed within a certain timeframe. Robertson said the first goals discussion would occur at the February 16 study session, with further refinement occurring at subsequent meetings.
PREPARATION FOR FEBRUARY 1 JOINT MEETING WITH COUNCIL REGARDING PERMANENT RATE
Robertson said annual joint meetings with the Parks Commission and council that began several years earlier were prompted after debate occurred regarding whether the Budget Committee, comprised of six elected city councilors, one elected mayor, and seven appointed Budget Committee members, should be responsible for setting the tax rate or if the rate needed to be decided by the elected City Council. He said it was decided that City Council would set the rate, so City Council scheduled a meeting with the Parks Commission with a goal toward establishing a rate for Parks.
Robertson said he anticipated two recommendations being proposed at the meeting: a recommendation from council not to take any of the Parks $2.09 millage until the City had levied all that could be levied; and a recommendation from council that a portion of the Parks ending fund balance of $1.7M become part of the City’s emergency fund. If the Parks Commission were asked to choose between those two options, he recommended they choose to hold on to the $2.09 millage rather than the ending fund balance.
LOWER CLAY STREET FINANCE PLAN
Robertson distributed information about the financing of the lower Clay Street property. He said this topic was scheduled to come before the commission at the January 31 meeting and then would be discussed at the February 1 council meeting. He outlined some proposed points included within the plan:
· Parks will pay for 3.75 acres of parkland at $360,000 per acre.
· Parks will make payments to the City of $208,000 per year for approximately 6.5 years, with the payments budgeted to begin in the current fiscal year.
· The City will own the wetland but the City and Parks will share in its maintenance. The City and Parks will talk to each year about the work to be done and who will do it.
· The City and Parks will split the balance of the shared infrastructure and planning actions. Additionally, the City and Parks will split the remaining costs of the right turn lane from Clay Street onto Ashland Street.
· Each party will be responsible for any infrastructure or permitting activities that are exclusive to their portion of the property. That is, Parks will pay for the park itself (and all improvements including permits) and the City will be responsible (or will transfer) the direct costs of developing the one+ acres retained by the City.
Robertson referenced a list of questions posed by Landt and said he was researching answers. Landt said that after his new commissioner orientation with Robertson, he came back with clarifying questions. Robertson said he thought Landt was trying to find comparisons between 1989 and the present to show the commission’s fiscal responsibility in their park development and maintenance. Landt said he asked for FTEs, active parkland, and budget information that he felt would be useful during the budget process, help justify the Parks millage, and show the commission to be more efficient now than in the past. He said this type of information would help the commission determine the economic feasibility of going pesticide-free. He said his goal was to achieve pesticide-free parks as long as they would not incur dramatically larger maintenance costs. He said the process of going pesticide-free might be similar from one city to another and suggested looking at other cities’ budget numbers. Lewis said the commission would need an evaluation of costs and that some cities claiming to be pesticide-free still used biological agents. Robertson said he would find out what the methodology had been for Portland when they stopped using pesticides in some of their parks. He said some Ashland parks were already free of pesticides, including Railroad, Scenic, Glenwood and Garden Way.
ADJOURNMENT– By consensus, Rosenthal adjourned the meeting at 9:33 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Susan Dyssegard, Ashland Parks and Recreation