MINUTES OF THE CITY COUNCIL/PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION AD HOC COMMITTEE MEETING May 28, 2013 @ 4:30 P.M. parks office à 340 S. Pioneer Street
Chair Councilor Marsh called the meeting to order at 4:35 p.m. in the Parks Office located at 340 S. Pioneer Street.
Councilors Rosenthal and Voisin, Parks Commissioners Seffinger and Landt, City Attorney Dave Lohman were present. Staff present: Don Robertson, Parks & Recreation Director; Dave Kanner, City Administrator.
The minutes of April 30, 2013, were approved as presented.
Review of Budget Committee Action from Wednesday, May 22, 2013
It was summarized that at the Budget Committee meeting of May 22, the Parks Commission asked for the restoration of their $2.09 per thousand in assessed property tax revenues and for the retention of their Ending Fund Balance (EFB) in the FY 13-15 biennium, with a longer-term solution developed in the future by the Ad Hoc Committee for the next biennium. It was noted by the committee that council set policy, not the Budget Committee.
It was further noted that the Parks EFB of $1.8M exceeded the City-mandated 25% EFB by $600,000 and the FY 13-15 City budget absorbed that amount, with the funds transferred to the City General Fund or used for critical maintenance in the parks system. Parks Commissioner Landt expressed interest in foregoing most of the Parks Department’s critical maintenance projects or spending an estimated $85,000 for the most urgently needed projects, with the remainder of the funds directed to the City General Fund.
Councilor Voisin expressed frustration with the Budget Committee’s assumptions meeting in February 2013 in which it was requested that assumptions be removed from the Mayor’s white paper. All of the assumptions were voted down at that time and no decision was made about the Parks $2.09. Councilor Rosenthal stated that the Ad Hoc Committee was now viewed as a vehicle for creating positive, proactive approaches and solving future problems.
It was summarized that the Parks Commission approved and signed a resolution at their April 25 regular meeting that was addressed to the Mayor, councilors, and Budget Officer. The resolution laid out the history of funding for the Parks Commission, as outlined in the Ashland City Charter, and requested a full disclosure to the public about the necessity for any changes in policy; it requested a vote of either the City Council or preferably the citizens of Ashland ratifying this proposed change; and it asked the City Administrator to explain how the Parks Commission was expected to maintain its Charter-created independence without control of its budget. Chair Councilor Marsh said that from a council perspective, the Parks resolution was secondary to their May 22 request for the reestablishment of the Parks $2.09 millage, which was still pending. Councilor Voisin suggested a joint meeting to deal with the resolution face-to-face along with any other remaining budget issues.
Discussion was held on the Mayor’s statement about two councilors not agreeing to place the Parks tax allotment (or removal of its historical $2.09 per thousand) on a council agenda, despite the Parks Commission’s request for a vote on the matter, with the issue then transferred to the Ad Hoc Committee. Councilor Rosenthal said he did not agree to place the item on a council agenda because of its timing. He said he would have preferred the resolution being addressed at the first Parks Commission meeting following the proposed budget’s issuance; instead, the commission indicated their tentative approval for operations levels, which seemed inconsistent. It was now time to address how to move forward. It was stated that the funding issue was one concern and the process issue the other, and there had not been a good opportunity for process discussion.
Chair Councilor Marsh said the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to pose and answer such questions and her preference was to give the committee an opportunity to work on them before scheduling a joint council / commission meeting. She suggested moving forward to the next agenda item: brainstorming about long-term Parks and Recreation funding options.
Long-term Parks and Recreation Funding Options: Brainstorming
Concerns/complaints/issues regarding this year’s budget planning process
Charter mandate – relevance of Measure 47 & 50
Threat to autonomy
Adequate funding assurance
Murky decision-making process
Threat to maintenance of CIP programs approved via Food and Beverage Tax
Undermining of the City’s Comprehensive Plan
Lack of public input
Question of trust between officials and staff
Lack of opportunity to communicate with Budget Committee
Lack of transparency; closed doors
Fear re: diminished park system
Lack of clarity re: Parks policy-making; makes staff jobs harder
Use of EFB for operations expenditures
Lack of explanation for mandated changes
Impact of changes on future biennial budgets
Failure to maintain 25% EFB as stipulated in City policy
Issue of reserve funds in emergencies
Disrespect toward elected body (Parks Commission)
Minimal communication between elected officials
Identification of funding and process principles
Improve transparency in decision making
Include values and incorporate public input
Provide justification for funding changes
Determine dependable and growing revenue source
Comply with City’s Comp plan, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and City Charter
Be politically sustainable
Provide long-term stability
Establish clear policy-making power for Parks Commission
Provide opportunity for Parks Commission to recommend its own budget
Engage in sustained and meaningful communication between council and Parks Commission
Determine the kind / size of parks system Ashland can afford
Develop clear understanding of EFB and reserve accounts: their use / need
Develop clear understanding of all the roles Parks plays throughout community
Develop clarity about interconnection between Parks and other functions
Allow for diversification
Potential Funding Options
Utility fee: minimize impact on General Fund
Local option levy: minimize impact on General Fund
Create a Parks District (include Ashland / Talent?)
Redirect meals tax dedicated to sewage treatment (when sewage debt is paid off)
Fund Parks Department through City’s General Fund budget
Gain access to TOT dollars
Charge recreation fees
Explore alternative mechanisms:
Explore entrepreneurial efforts
Development of Funding Options Spreadsheet
Chair Councilor Marsh said she would place the bulleted items into a spreadsheet.
Review Agenda and Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was set for Monday, June 10, at 3 p.m. in the Parks Office.
Public Input / Additional Brainstorming Bullet Points
Alice Mallory, 438 Taylor Street
Hasty demise of long-term “in perpetuity” Parks budget/taken away too fast.
Not enough time for Parks Commission to process the change.
Concern about the autonomy / future of Parks and the parks system.
Parks Commission unlike any other in the state – makes Ashland unique.
Parks is understaffed; gave example of request for watering of non-native plants on the Plaza; Parks already understaffed in terms of maintenance and water issues.
Parks being punished for responsible fiscal management.
Restore the Parks $2.09 per thousand in assessed property values; it’s what makes Ashland unique.
In CA, the “Brown Act” requires transparency; this did not happen during the 2013 budget season.
OSF pays the City $1 per year to operate their business on City / park land. If still true, revisit the arrangement. Create public / private partnership with City / OSF.
Cyndi Dion, 897 Hillview
Match current City revenues to current expenses instead of using EFB dollars to fund next year’s expenses: will allow for more privileges in terms of bonds.
If the Ad Hoc Committee decides to reinstate the $2.09 per thousand, offer a $600,000 loan, plus interest, to the City so the City can continue balancing its budget for the next biennial budget cycle.
JoAnne Eggers, 221 Granite Street
Requested role clarifications, particularly for the Budget Committee but also for Parks Commission and council.
Concerned about the two-year temporary solution; could lead to the dictating / setting of future precedents.
At the end of the FY 13-15 biennium, what happens to CIP funds for Parks? Keep the funds with Parks.
Provide scenario for how things will be at end of next biennium.
Council has its own business and responsibilities; thanked the Parks Commission for their efforts / attention to the parks system.
Lija Appleberry, 704 Willow
Lack of understanding within the community, among the public and council, about how City budgets operate.
Provide an educational component for community members and elected officials during each budget planning period.
Teach how funds can / cannot be used (restrictions).
With no further business, Chair Councilor Marsh adjourned the meeting at 6:07 p.m.
Ashland Parks and Recreation
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