MINUTES OF THE JOINT MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
ASHLAND PARKS & RECREATION COMMISSION
October 29, 2013
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg and Park Commission Chair Stefani Seffinger called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. in the Civic Center, Council Chambers.
Councilor Morris, Slattery, Voisin, Marsh, Rosenthal, and Lemhouse; Parks Commissioner Landt, Shaw, and Gardiner were present. Parks Commissioner Lewis was absent.
Chair Seffinger explained public input would occur at the end of the meeting.
Overview of session
Mayor Stromberg read the cover letter and explained the emphasis for the meeting was discovering and confirming areas of agreement and directing subjects that may require additional work.
DISCUSSION OF ad hoc PARKS FUNDING COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Chair Seffinger clarified they would not discuss item #7. The Committee brought it forward as a suggestion, not a recommendation. Councilor Marsh Chair of the Ad Hoc Parks Funding Committee explained the steps the Committee followed when making recommendations were Step 1: Identification of funding characteristics; Step 2: Analysis of funding options; Step 3: Addressing the gaps; and Step 4: Additional budget recommendations. The only option that provided sustained and adequate funding for the Parks and Recreation Department over the short-term was funding the Parks and Recreation Department from the General Fund. She went on to summarize the following recommendations:
1. Clarify management responsibilities by memorializing them in a Memorandum of Understanding between city administration and the Parks and Recreation Department.
Councilor Marsh explained City Administrator Dave Kanner, and Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson collaborated on the proposed Management: Planning; Organizing; Budgeting; Directing and Evaluating document that would become the basis for the Memo of Understanding (MOU).
Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson and City Administrator Dave Kanner clarified when they worked on the table that delineated management responsibilities they focused primarily on administrative management responsibilities. An elected body typically hired directors. The MOU established personnel rules and policies with guidance from the Legal, Finance, and Personnel departments. The current employee handbook for Parks and Recreation staff was consistent with policies for City staff. Mr. Kanner added individual departments could adopt policies as long as they were consistent and not less restrictive than the personnel rules.
The Parks Commission and Council directed Mr. Robertson and Mr. Kanner to create an MOU based on the Management: Planning; Organizing; Budgeting; Directing and Evaluating document.
2. A revised budget process that ensures that P&R needs are understood and reviewed before and during the budget process.
Councilor Marsh explained the proposed Parks budget process for 2015-2017 would include the following:
- Joint Council-Parks Commission meeting to discuss goals and budget priorities
- Parks Commission would attend the Budget Assumptions meeting, and the Parks Commission Chair and Parks and Recreation Director would meet with the Budget Officer
- Parks and Recreation Director would also present the proposed Parks Department budget to the Parks Commission during a regular Commission meeting. The Parks Commission would send specific recommendations to the Budget Committee in advance of the first budget meeting but not before staff delivered the budget to the Committee
- A Joint Council-Parks Commission meeting would also happen to discuss any budget concerns.
Staff clarified the Budget Committee was prohibited by State Law to meet and discuss the budget prior to the first presentation of the budget. The Budget Committee could prescribe its own process for deliberating and state law only required them to deliberate and take public input at the Budget Committee’s discretion. The only thing the Budget Committee could not do was allow the Parks Commission to vote. Additionally they could not have an elected official be part of the non-city council portion of the Budget Committee.
Councilor Marsh summarized the discussion by noting general agreement on the initial meeting to discuss priorities. If the Parks Commission attended the Budget Assumptions meeting, the Budget Committee could engage them. In general, the groups supported the Parks Commission chair participating with the Budget Officer. They also agreed on the Parks and Recreation Director presenting the budget to the Parks Commission with the Commission making specific recommendations prior to the first budget meeting. Council would talk to the Budget Committee chair regarding Parks Commissioners or representatives’ to attend the Budget Assumptions meeting and the Parks and Recreation budget presentation to the Budget Committee. The Parks Commission and Council thought the Parks Commission could respond to the Budget Committee regarding their budget after the Parks and Recreation presentation to the Budget Committee and before the final Budget decision. Both the Council and Parks Commission agreed on the proposed changes. They also agreed on discussing the changes with the Budget Committee.
3. Commit to renew Council-Commission communication through joint meetings of both bodies, and/or via the establishment of a dedicated joint committee.
Councilor Marsh outlined the recommendations: Option 1 would form a Joint Committee comprised of two City Councilors and two Parks Commissioners. The Mayor would appoint Council members confirmed by the Council and the Parks Commissioner Chair would appoint Parks Commissioners. The Joint Committee would meet quarterly or as determined by the members. Option 2 would establish a schedule of regular meetings that included full participation from the Council and Parks Commission.
Council suggested a third option that incorporated both Option 1 and 2. Both groups supported assigning a joint planning committee to move forward on options for future meetings.
4. Dedicate the current Ending Fund Balance to a Special Reserve Fund.
- Ending Fund Balance (EFB). The current EFB for the biennium (approximately $587,000) is no longer needed to serve as beginning cash flow for the next budget period since Parks & Recreation is now funded through the General Fund. EFB would be dedicated for park purposes and placed in a Special Reserve Fund with expenditures to be determined by Park Commission.
The discussion raised concern on increased fees and how the EFB changed during the recent budget cycle. A suggestion was made that the Parks Commission determine how they would use the EFB and bring results to a meeting with Council for discussion. Additional comments expressed concern the Parks Commission should have control over the allocation and expenditures of the $587,000 in the EFB.
Councilor Marsh summarized over the next 18 months, they would have discussions with the Budget Committee, review outcomes of the EFB, and discuss overriding goals and objectives.
5. Review and adopt an incentive policy to reward Parks management for creative programming and/or cost-effective practices.
Ms. Marsh explained this recommendation potentially included the following policies:
1) Assignment of budget surplus:
Monies budgeted but not spent during the biennium will be added to revenues generated by the department (fees, rental income) that exceeded the budgeted amounts; the total will be evenly divided between the General Fund and Parks & Recreation. Parks and Recreation funds would be placed in the department’s Capital Fund.
2) Assignment of revenue only:
Parks and Recreation will wholly retain revenue generated by the department (fees, rental income) that exceeds budgeted amounts. Funds would be placed in the department’s Capital Fund
3) Assignment of excess Materials and Services revenue:
Monies budgeted but not spent solely in the Materials and Services category would be placed in the department’s capital fund.
City Administrator Dave Kanner noted incentive programs could be problematic and flawed. Staff could work on a policy and bring it to the Budget Committee for discussion. The incentive plan should apply to all City departments as well. Policy Option 3 seemed the most feasible. He addressed Option 2 and noted another issue was by law, the Budget Officer was required to make good faith estimate of revenues. These estimates would go into the Budget, and it would be difficult to come up with something meaningful in terms of the Parks and Recreation Department generating excess revenues, specifically revenues not already budgeted.
Staff would review the options and gather information for discussion when the Budget Committee met.
6. Initiate a TOT study
to assess the feasibility of instituting an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax that could be dedicated to P&R funding (most likely Lithia Park maintenance and development).
Ms. Marsh explained the recommendation would go on a ballot before the voters as a presently known dedicated tourist-oriented use. Council and Parks Commission discussed concerns regarding increasing the TOT, supporting comments noted it could conceivably decrease property taxes. Other comments thought there was enough money in the budget to accomplish what was needed. Opposing comment expressed there might not be enough money in the future.
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained the first thing that needed to occur was some form of scientific study to prove that Lithia Park was a tourism related facility per the statutory definition. One way to determine that would be stationing people at the entrances of Lithia Park with clipboards during peak tourist season and ask people where they were from and where they were staying.
Mayor Stromberg noted the City and Parks Commission had not demonstrated the need for additional funds. Other comments stated property taxes was the mechanism used to fund parks. Both groups agreed to delay discussion to hear public input.
7. Review existing policies and documents for consistency with current practices.
Item removed from discussion.
- PUBLIC INPUT
Graham Sheldon/70 Water Street/Explained he was the owner of Water Street Inn, the president of the Ashland Bed and Breakfast Network and a member of the Visitor Convention Bureau Committee. He referred to TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) and commented state law allowed 30% of the revenue to be spent on the General Fund and 70% allocated to causes designed to increase tourism from people living more than 50 miles away. Although calling Lithia Park a tourist destination may technically allow it to be legal to divert 100% of the proceeds, he thought it violated the spirit of the law and would not serve the city well.
Abi Maghamfar/451 North Main Street/Ashland Lodging Association/
Expressed concern with the discussion regarding TOT. The US economy was still suffering from the 2008 meltdown. Tourists were counting every penny for their travel. The current 10% lodging tax was high enough. Increasing it to 13% would place Ashland as the second highest in the state after Portland. The City needed to provide more incentive for tourists to visit Ashland. If the parks system needed more money, they needed to demonstrate the need for additional funds. The current budget allocated $16,000,000 to the Parks and Recreation fund and there did not appear to be a Capital Improvement Plan on how they would spend the money. There was no reason to ask for more money.
Lois Van Aken/740 Central Avenue/
Explained she owned Central Avenue Cottage and opposed increasing the TOT. It would have a negative effect on the local lodging businesses. Due to the City’s lack of enforcement over the past 5-7 years, there was a proliferation of unlawful traveler’s accommodations. Progress has happened but there was a long road ahead and an unfair playing field. The TOT was already high and raising it from 9% to 13% was a steep increase. She urged Council not to raise the TOT for many years because it was already unfair for Ashland lodging businesses.
Councilor Marsh clarified there was no proposal to raise the TOT.
Councilor Marsh summarized the agreements that included the following:
- Clarifying management responsibilities by directing staff to draft an MOU (Memo of Understanding)
- Revise the budget process by scheduling a discussion of the recommendations with the Budget Committee and include participation from the Parks Commission
- Parks Commission and Council committed to renewed communication by assigning a planning committee that will plan the next joint meeting
- Continue the discussion regarding the Ending Fund Balance by asking the Parks Commission to determine how they would spend the money and
- Review and continue to work on a potential incentive policy before the Budget-Council meeting June 2014 with discussion by the Parks Commission and Council prior.
Both bodies deferred the TOT study pending discussion regarding the overall budget needs of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Meeting adjourned at 9:33 p.m.