Charter Review Committee
White Paper on Election v. Appointment of Parks & Recreation Commission
Subcommittee members: Laurie MacGraw, Hal Cloer
The Ashland Parks Commission, so named in the charter creating it, in 1908, says (Article 19, section 3), that it (APC), "has control and management" of all lands dedicated, (or hereafter acquired), by the city for such park purposes....and "control and management...of park funds...whether obtained by taxation, donation or otherwise..."
Should the Parks and Recreation Commission continue to be elected and be autonomous? Should the powers and duties of the commission be included in the city charter? Is there a predominate perception that a change is necessary in regard to Parks and the City?
The City of Ashland was incorporated in 1874, a new Charter was approved in 1898, and a state constitutional amendment giving cities Home Rule as passed in 1906. In 1908, the Ashland Parks Department was established along with its own taxing authority. This structure remained in effect until 1970 when the Ashland City Charter was revised and adopted. Voters again continued to support Parks as an autonomous department. In the early 1980s, a recreational serial levy was established that appropriated funds for recreational purposes, (i.e. Daniel Meyer Pool operation, swim programs, summer youth programs, etc.). When the Youth Activity Levy passed however, the recreational levy was discontinued. After a great deal of campaigning and controversy in 1990, the Food and Beverage Tax was instituted and thus a funding mechanism for the Open Space/Land Acquisition Program was established. Funds for this program do not cover maintenance or operational costs. Such expenditures are covered by the "Park Fund" division of the overall Park Budget. The O.S. Program expires December 31, 2010, unless extended by a vote of the electorate.
There are two different models for managing parks in the State of Oregon: cities and parks districts. . Ashland's park's are managed by an autonomous/independent department with its own elected commission and is possibly the only one of its kind in Oregon to date.
The passage of Ballot Measure 50, (1997), eliminated the park's special, (property) tax levy. Ashland Park's funding is now part of the general fund. Thus far, funds have been allocated to Parks as if the levy was still in place. This has occurred primarily due to an understanding and informal agreement between the City Council and the Park's Commission. Such an agreement originated in 1997, after Measure 50 passed so as to honor Ashland's dedication to the value of a healthy park's system.
Current Government: The City and The Park's Department.
The primary common ground between the City and Parks, aside from serving Ashland citizens, is a shared tax base. Parks however still generates its own budget that is interfaced into the city budget for review and processing. (See Appendix 3 for pre and post Measure 50 rate allocations to Parks, pg. 8).
Presently, there are numerous services that are routinely provided between City and Parks to meet various needs of both entities. These services range from Central Services to Accounting to landscaping and Ashland School District ground maintenance. Sharing the cost of operations and staff at various levels with a spirit of cooperation has served the community for many years even though such agreements are informal.
Maintaining the parks commission as an elected body:
· An elected commission allows public access to government. It invites public participation, which empowers citizens.
· Having elected officials specifically responsible for parks assures a strong focus and expertise toward park development, maintenance and recreation.
· An elected commission has political power to make changes, adopt budgets, fight for funding, appoint directors, set policy and be accessible and transparent to the public.
· An elected commission provides a necessary balance between the administrative powers of the City and the Parks Department.
· An elected commission represents a political constituency.
· An elected commission is directly involved in performance evaluation of the Park's Director and in salary negotiations for administrative staff.
· Management of P and R could be simplified if treated as a city division. The City Council and senior City staff would have the authority to set priorities for all City Departments in a balanced fashion.
· Ashland is more affluent than it was in the past and there is an appreciation for parks. An independent governing body is no longer needed to maintain Parks and Recreation.
· An advisory, (non-elected), board has the power to make recommendations to the City Council, thus lessening the work load of the Council, yet it doesn't demand political attention.
· An appointed commission is independent of political process and makes independent decisions.
· The City Administrator is not directly involved in personnel matters with the director and consequently has no hire/fire capabilities in the park department.
Maintaining the parks department as a separate agency:
· Ashland parks, as a separate agency, have always been one of excellence because of its funding. Such funding has been supported via taxes or informal agreements.
· In the typical city structure that oversees the park department, a parks budget often succumbs to police and fire needs.
· The Parks Commission and the City Council function together with various checks and balances as seen in joint study sessions, shared decision-making duties for the Open Space Program and identification of shared services for the community.
· P and R no longer have any taxing authority. It is technically a department directly under city administration. Therefore, overlap and duplication of services is inefficient and costly.
· There is a belief that past park management has been too expansion-minded and that Ashland spends more money on parks than many other cities. Shrinking what the city spends on parks would reduce taxes paid by citizens.
(See Appendix 1 for specific comments from former and current city officials, pg. 5.)
The Ashland Park Funds are divided into 3 categories:
A. Park Funds:
· Park division-includes all "natural areas" of park land
· Recreation division
· Golf division
B. Capital Improvement Fund:
· This fund utilizes a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan for long-range planning.
C. Youth Activity Levy Fund:
· Of the total expected levy, 6% ($123,000.00) is managed by the Park's Commission.
(Please see Appendix 2 for expenditures by division, fiscal year 2003-2004, pg. 7)
Each year the commission schedules 4 to 6 budget meetings to review expenditures, allocate funds for current and upcoming projects, receive public input for the capital improvement plan and prepare a budget to submit to the city's budget committee in the spring.
The following considerations/possible options should be discussed by the Charter Review Committee.
A. Edit the Parks and Recreation section of the current charter only in respect to the language pertaining to taxing authority.
B. Remove from the charter the reference to the Parks and Recreation thereby allowing the governing body to establish it as a department/division within the city Administration and affording the governing body to appoint the commission.
C. Formalize the relationship between the City and Parks:
· Pass a council resolution or ordinance that would provide the Parks Commission with the same portion of the property tax that was in the charter before Ballot Measure 50.
· Amend or revise the charter so to provide an elected commission with the same share of the property tax levy that was originally approved by the people and maintained in the charter in 1970.
· Amend or revise the charter so to provide an elected commission with a formalized budgeted amount that continues to support Parks and Recreation as it has been supported before Ballot Measure 50.
D. Maintain an elected commission, yet require that the Park's Director report to the city administrator.
E. Transform the City of Ashland Park Department into a special park and recreation district that includes a larger area than the city limits and has a property tax base associated with the boundaries of the district, and has an elected policy making body associated with the same boundaries. This would involve transferring the park to the ownership or control of the district and would be in conflict with the traditional restraint in the current Charter, (See Article 19, Section 1), that the parks "are hereby reserved and forever dedicated to the people of the city for park purposes and shall never be sold, leased, etc..."
Comments in regards to the autonomy of the Ashland Park's and Recreation:
The following includes comments and input from Ken Michelson (KM) former Parks Director, Don Robertson (DR) current Parks Director, Harvey Roth (HR) former Parks Director of 1000 Oaks, CA and Prof. of Recreation at Chico State, George Kramer (GK) Historian, Brian Almquist (BA) former City Administrator, Gino Grimaldi (GG) current City Administrator, Martin Levine (ML) chair Citizen's Budget Committee, John McLaughlin (JM) City Community Development Director, Lee Turnberg (LT) City Finance Director, Dave Williams (DW) current Citizen's Budget Committee member.
A. Parks as autonomous entity vs. a division of the city.
· The Parks, as a separate agency, has always been one of excellence because of its funding. Such funding has been supported via taxes or informal agreements.(KM.)
· P and R no longer have any taxing authority. It is at the mercy of the budget committee/City Council that perhaps has no long-term historical understanding of past agreements.(KM)
· Ashland Parks reflect the values of the P and R Commission that is elected by the citizens of Ashland.(KM)
· Without any taxing authority, the Park's department is technically a department directly under the city administration. Therefore, overlap and duplication of services is possible and consequently costly.(LT)
· If there is one unifying force/source of pride in Ashland, it is Lithia Park. (KM) Is the quality of parks dependant on the autonomy of the parks commission?
· P and R are critical to the quality of life in Ashland. Tourism, theater and education serve as Ashland's economic engine. Many tourists and students are attracted to Ashland and many desire to live here. The parks, trails, viewscape and the charm and beauty of downtown are inherent in the Parks vision and mission statement.(DR)
· Management of P and R could be simplified if treated as a city division. Yet, in the typical city structure that oversees the park department, a parks budget often succumbs to fire and police needs. (LT) Would this affect the quality of life in Ashland?
· The present system allows for all the benefits of working for a city with the autonomy of working for a district.(DR)
· Some citizen's have come to believe that it is time for Parks to be brought into the City. They believe that the park's director should report to a city manager who would have direct hire and fire authority over all department managers. (DW)
· There is a belief that past management and commissions have been too expansion-minded. They have not resisted the temptation to "gild the lily"; to further "improve" what is already a gorgeous system. It all becomes a matter of efficiency and balance. (DW)
· There is a remarkable working relationship between the Parks and the City. This was established by Ken Mickelsen, Don Laws, (City Councilman), and Brian Almquist. Formalizing the gentlemen's agreement regarding shared services and the budget is an issue deserving discussion. (GG)
B. The Elected Commission.
· An elected commission allows the public to access government. The commission invites public participation which empowers citizens.(DR)
· There is a perception that a special constituency exists because of the elected commission. This could be a pro or a con.(GK)
· Ashland is well served by the separate election of Park's Commissioners. Having elected officials specifically responsible for this aspect of the community has assured a strong focus and expertise toward park development throughout Ashland's history. Transforming the Park's Commission into an appointed body subject to council would inherently dilute our attention and commitment to our parks, or at a minimum put them at risk to other short-term goals.(GK)
· Ashland parks are an intrinsic and valuable part of Ashland's character. This value could be maintained, enhanced or diluted by changing over to an advisory board versus the elected commission.(BA)
· The Park's Commission should be retained, but only as an advisory board that makes recommendations, yet does not have hiring and firing authority. The City Council and senior City staff should have the authority to set priorities for all City Departments in a balanced fashion. (DW)
· An elected commission is able to focus exclusively on P and R issues and be directly accountable to its budget. An elected board is needed to fight for park's funding. It is the only watchdog available now since the passage of ballot Measure 50. An advisory board is sometimes not listened to and doesn't necessarily represent the diversity of the community. It is likely to change-over every time a new mayor is elected.(BA)
· The Parks Commission and the City Council function together with various checks and balances as seen in joint study sessions, shared decision-making duties for the Open Space Program and a council member attends Park Commission meetings as a liaison. Does this promote synergy between the two entities or redundancy?(DR)
· An elected commission and an appointed advisory board are not the same. An elected commission has political power to make changes, adopt budgets, appoint directors, set policy and be accessible and transparent to the public. An advisory board has the power to make recommendations, yet they are not as strong. (HR)
· An elected commission brings more attention to the Parks and its budget. It is awkward for the parks to have its own budget, yet the commission represents the community and therefore validates the budget allocation. (ML)
· It is possible that Ashland spends more money on parks than many other cities. This may be desirable and certainly adds to the quality of life in Ashland, however; the budget committee needs objective data that verifies the Park Commission's requests. (ML)
· Ashland has "grown up" in the last 100 years. It is more affluent and there is an appreciation and sense of pride in our park's system. An independent governing body is no longer needed to maintain Parks and Recreation. (DW)
· To date the City Budget Committee has never denied or reduced the Park's budget. The pre-Ballot Measure 50 arrangement has always been honored. (ML)
· An elected commission provides a necessary balance between the administrative powers of the City and the Parks Department. (GG)
Ashland Park Commission
Expenditures by Division
Fiscal Year 2003 - 2004
Parks and Recreation Fund
Park Operations Division $ 3,022,863
Recreation Division 207,829
Golf Division 327,763
Capital Outlay Division 270,841
Debt Service Division 21,738
Capital Improvement Fund
Youth Activities Levy Fund
Total Expenditures $ 6,056,536
Levied Taxes Pre and Post Ballot Measure 50
Prior to Measure 50, Parks was authorized to levy up to $4.25 per $1000.00 assessed value in property taxes. The city was authorized to levy $4.29. Neither entity ever levied the full amount. The chart below shows that pre-measure 50, Parks levied $2.23 per $1000.00 assessed value and the city levied $1.75 per $1000.00 assessed value. That levy rate is approximately the same today; fiscal year 2004-2005 allows $1.47 for the city and $2.09 for parks.
pre 50 post 50 2004-2005 Measure 50
1997-98 1998-99 Rate Levied Rate Limit
City Funds 1.17320 1.45291 1.4719
Parks 2.23623 2.25600 2.0928
3.40943 3.70891 3.5647 4.2865
Local Option Levy:
Youth Activities 1.3800