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City Council (View All)

Joint Meeting of Council and Parks Commission

Monday, April 27, 2015

City of Ashland
April 27, 2015
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street
Present:    Mayor Stromberg; Councilors Morris, Rosenthal, Seffinger, Voisin; City Administrator Kanner; City Finance Director Tuneberg
Commissioners Gardiner, Landt, Lewis, Shaw; Director Black; Superintendents Dials and Dickens; Administrative Supervisor Dyssegard; Assistant Manuel
Absent:    Councilors Lemhouse, Marsh; Commissioner Miller
Commission Chair Gardiner called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street.
There was none.
Black noted that there were six main areas that guided the budget for the 2015-2017 Biennium:
  • Trails, Open Space and Land Conservation
  • Volunteers
  • Facilities and Programming
  • Planning and Development
  • Organization
  • Parks and Recreation Governance
Black presented through a brief overview of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Budget. He stated that responsibilities included jurisdiction over nineteen parks, a Senior Center, a Nature Center, maintenance for Ashland High School varsity fields, and 785 acres of land – both landscaped and forested; a golf course, community gardens, artisan space, seasonal pool, 30 miles of trails, and six facilities. Black highlighted the 106 recreational programs offered for the summer season. He noted that there were three divisions, and 43.8 FTE. 
Black stated that a comparison of the last biennium with the proposed biennium showed a small increase. The former was at $12,052,100 with the proposed budget at $12, 410.268. He noted that the increase was due to changes in utilities, benefits, and personnel. Black presented a graph depicting budget fluctuations over prior years, beginning with 2007 and ending with 2017.  
Black talked about the proposed Add Package requests for Parks, noting that the proposed project manager would be funded entirely out the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). He stated that renovations of The Grove would convert unused space into offices that would house the Recreation headquarters. Classes would remain available at The Grove, and no uses would be lost, including the recording studio.            
Black explained the need for a Trails Tech I, stating that the extra person would be necessary if Parks and Recreation agreed to take on the new task of maintaining trails in Ashland’s watershed. He stated that a roving Park Tech 1 was an important addition to staff, acting as additional assistance when hot spots occurred, whether due to a vacancy, a special project or other pressing needs. 
Black highlighted the challenges in meeting the proposed budget, suggesting that a performance audit would assist the Department in gaining financial and operational efficiencies. He also proposed meeting quarterly with the Finance Department and the Commission regarding budget updates. 
Councilor Morris noted that the 2008 budget used very little of the CIP. Black stated that budget carry-overs were included in the revenue at that time, and there were more people on staff. Councilor Rosenthal stated that 2008 was the last year that the Youth Activities Levy was listed. He stated that the levy inflated the budget by $3 million. 
Mayor Stromberg expressed his opinion that the presentation was helpful in describing the ways in which Parks and Recreation activities benefited the community. He voiced support for the performance audit. 
Commissioner Gardiner complimented Black for his suggestion about participating in a performance audit. He stated that it was a great opportunity to review best practices and find ways to close the gap between revenue and expenses. Gardiner noted that raising the cost of programs could alienate participants and the audit would assist the Director in finding the right balance. 
Further discussion and queries focused on the paper transfer of $550,000 transferred from the General Fund, how that would affect future funding, efforts to balance the budget, and reasons for the historical budgetary excess. In response to a question by Councilor Seffinger, Black indicated that he would was comfortable with the budget as proposed. He stated that if approved, he could manage current responsibilities to high standards. He assured Seffinger that the performance audit would foster innovation while addressing efficiencies. 
Commissioner Shaw led a discussion about expending the budget versus historical underspending and/or inflation of the budget. He highlighted the importance of realistic figures to reflect actualities on the ground, stating that the goal was to match the budget rather than record an excess. Kanner noted that budgets should balance. Black emphasized the efforts made to remain under budget.           
Black was asked to prioritize Add Package requests. He stated that The Grove renovation project was first because it spoke to current needs and use. The roving technician was next, with the trails technician contingent upon funding for taking on new responsibilities in watershed trails management.  
Councilor Rosenthal focused on the proposed transfer of watershed trails management. Kanner noted that the Fire District took on the trails in Ashland’s watershed area, approximately seven years ago, as part of the effort to manage forest fires. He stated that although the Fire District agreed to take on maintenance of the trails, no funding followed; therefore, maintenance was minimal. Rosenthal asked whether there would be more economic benefit to the community if taking on the trails became a priority for Parks. 
Mayor Stromberg noted the complex nature of trails management, stating that City trails sometimes merged into Forest Service trails and/or onto private lands. He highlighted damage to the trails system caused by mountain bikers participating in extreme aspects of the sport. It was acknowledged that the sport was dangerous and led to the development of a separate trails system for bikers. Public participation meant managing volunteers and volunteer organizations such as the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association. Black commented that taking on the trails in the watershed region also meant processing applications for new trails and ensuring that the trails met certain requirements and standards. 
Further discussion of the budget centered upon variables such as weather cycles and other factors affecting revenues. Mayor Stromberg asked whether cost centers were used for each activity.  It was noted that many programs were subsidized, but that cost recoveries were a focus. Black noted that the golf course, for example, typically recovered at 70% of expenses from fees for use. Seffinger highlighted the value of subsidized programs for the greater good: stewardship programs for children learning to protect and conserve natural resources as well as nutritious meals provided to underserved seniors.    
Councilor Voisin confirmed that the budget was predicated on $2.09 per $1000 in tax incremental financing. 
Mayor Stromberg spoke to the importance of the discussion, noting that it was helpful to come together and create a greater understanding of the Department and its goals, achievements, and finances.  
 There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7:58 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Betsy Manuel              

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