Present: Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Seffinger, Shaw; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Dickens
Absent: City Council Liaison Voisin
CALL TO ORDER
Seffinger called the study session to order at 7:04 p.m. in the Parks office, 340 S. Pioneer Street.
Robertson provided a brief meeting outline:
PARKS FUNDING / BUDGET DISCUSSION / AD HOC COMMITTEE HIGHLIGHTS
Robertson said Landt requested an analysis, for the benefit of the Ad Hoc Committee and Parks Commission, of the City Attorney’s April 2 memo on Parks funding. The memo, entitled “Ending Fund Balances and Reserve Funds,” asked two basic questions: “What is the Ending Fund Balance and how can it be used?” and “What is a reserve fund, what is a restricted fund, and how are the two alike and different?”
While Parks was considered a segment of the General Fund, a point reinforced by two City Administrators, Parks was the only City department separately audited (CUFR) and the auditors considered it a “component unit” of the City, comparable to a service district. The current City Administrator expressed that Parks only needed $750,000 in ending fund balance, not $2.2M. Robertson said if the City considered the use of Parks ending funds as anything other than one-time monies, the City would be compromised at the end of the biennial budget period (FY 13-15) unless another revenue source could be identified to supplement future budget shortfalls. Robertson suggested having the Ad Hoc Committee focus its efforts on identifying stable funding for the entire City, not just Parks.
Seffinger and Landt provided updates on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. It was noted that Councilor Rosenthal requested a $500,000 Parks reserve fund for Lithia Park improvements and rehabilitation. Landt recommended passage of a Parks budget resolution. If approved, he said he would request the rescinding of Parks budget approval by the commission, including the ending fund balance portion. He said the commission’s April 22 budget approval showed tacit support of the City Administrator’s position. Landt reviewed points within his draft budget resolution and commissioners asked clarifying questions.
Cyndi Dion, 897 Hillview, said she fully supported the draft Parks budget resolution. She recommended changing the wording in a final paragraph from “traditional Parks money” to “Parks special revenue fund” to reflect that the Parks Fund, a special revenue fund, was restricted to Parks’ use. She suggested replacing the term “deferred maintenance” with “critical maintenance” for completed projects that improved the safety or infrastructure of the parks system.
JoAnne Eggers, 221 Granite, said community members were coming together to talk about protection of Parks funds and looking for solid ground, although it was hard to find.
Lija Appleberry, 704 Willow, said Parks managed its pennies over the years and collected sufficient funds for critical projects before beginning their projects. They were now being punished and having funds removed, which seemed wrong. It was noted that the origin and development of the large Parks ending funding balance had not been adequately addressed within the community.
Discussion Among Commissioners
It was stated that Ashland citizens passed a meals tax several times, mainly for sewage treatment plant debt management, with a portion of tax revenues (20%) directed to Parks. Without the meals tax, sewage rates would have risen significantly for Ashland residents. The tax never would have passed without the portion set aside for Parks, clearly reflecting the importance of parks to the local community. Landt said the large Parks ending fund balance was the result of conservative budget management and spending, and of never spending more than the budgeted amount, along with higher-than-expected property tax receipts. The additional “Wheras” was drafted to read: “Whereas, the Parks ending fund balance / restricted special fund was a byproduct of prudent fiscal management by Parks and will not likely be replenished anytime soon.”
Landt agreed to rewrite the resolution using input received, then to send it back to the commission for a final review. Commissioners agreed to add the resolution to the April 22 regular meeting agenda. Landt said he would make the April 22 motion to rescind approval of the Parks budget if the resolution passed. He thanked the commission for their consideration
Dials said the Budget Officer presented each department with guidelines for how to make their presentations to the Budget Committee. She reviewed the guidelines with the commission.
In terms of process, Robertson said the current City Administrator chose to include public input at the beginning of each Budget Committee meeting rather than after departmental presentations. The City budget was scheduled for approval by the Budget Committee at the May 22 meeting, with any modifications made before final council approval in June.
Dials said she wanted to highlight positive points and department successes throughout her presentation. Commissioners asked for the presentation to address council’s direction to spend money and get projects completed, especially safety-related projects. They suggested “before and after” photos depicting completed projects in FY 12-13 and the identification of any projects expected in the FY 13-15 biennial period.
Dials presented her draft presentation and talked about how commission projects and goals were tied to council goals. Commissioners asked for modifications to certain slides and photos. For uncompleted projects, they asked her to show some of the areas needing repairs or replacements throughout the system.
Robertson said Dials would present the Parks budget on Wednesday, May 1, at 6 PM in Council Chambers.
Robertson said the next meeting was scheduled for Monday, April 22, at 7 PM in Council Chambers, with Dickens leading the meeting in his absence. Topics were said to include the budget presentation, Forestry Division overview, and an IPM policy exemption request for use of synthetic herbicides at the north entryway medians for the sake of staff safety.
Dickens gave a brief overview of the Enders Shelter project. He said restoring it to its original condition would require a cedar shake roof but that violated local fire code. He indicated that the state preservation office might be willing to waive the requirement. The concern now was for public safety and if the variance process took too long and the bid process and construction schedules delayed, the structure would become a safety hazard. The commission discussed posting informational and safety-related signage along with safety fencing.
Dials said the unveiling of the new North Mountain Park Nature Center mosaic recycling center was scheduled for Wednesday, April 17, at 6 PM.
Dials said Senior Center Director Chris Dodson was scheduled to speak with the mayor and Commissioner Seffinger in a “Town Hall” format on Wednesday, April 24, at 6 PM via RVTV.
Seffinger reported that the group “Ashland Loves Dogs” was working on a rewards system for people picking up after their dogs. The program would include the distribution of coupons to responsible dog owners.
With no further business, Seffinger adjourned the meeting at 8:57 p.m.
Ashland Parks and Recreation