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Park district board discusses priorities for 2015 budget

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Degree of staff involvement with process debated at work session

By Sandy Barnes

Balancing expenses with revenues in the 2015 budget for the Evergreen Park and Recreation District emerged as a top priority for EPRD board members during a work session Aug. 20.

“We have to have a balanced budget,” board member Janet Doyle said during discussion with other board members and administrative staff. “We don’t (want to) have expenses rising above revenues.”

Unlike previous years when the park district accrued excess funds, there is a $150,000 shortfall this year because of a drop in revenue at the Lake House, said EPRD executive director Scott Robson.

“Is there a willingness on the part of the board to raise fees?” he asked.

Robson also clarified that the percentage of increase in expenses should not exceed the percentage of increase in revenues in a balanced budget.

Another consideration for the upcoming budget is that costs are projected to rise in the coming year, especially regarding an anticipated increase in health insurance benefits for employees.

The 2015 budget should be realistic, said Karen Messler, EPRD financial controller.
“Our expenses are going up and up,” she remarked. “I think it’s critical to set the expectations.”

EPRD board President Peter Lindquist said he wanted department heads in the park district more directly engaged early in the budget process.

“I would like to have a work session with department heads, to have discussion with them,” he said. “I want to make sure our department heads have the data to explain to us.”

“I don’t think it’s our role to have these individuals reporting to us,” said Doyle.

“We don’t need everybody coming in here,” said board member Peg Lin.

EPRD recreation manager Ellen O’Connor said she leaves budget preparation to the “team of experts” — the department heads in the district.

“We spend one to one-and-a-half hours with each department head,” said Robson.

Board members also discussed the criteria for an employee receiving benefits, including health insurance, vacation and sick leave.

At the present time, some part-time employees receive incremental benefits. However, that policy could change to save expenses.

“Do we forgo benefits?” Lindquist asked about employees working less than 30 hours a week.

“Of course, staff has to make that decision in the coming weeks,” said Robson.

“There are going to be some hard decisions made in this budget,” said Messler.

The anticipated rising cost of health care coverage does change the budget, O’Connor pointed out.

The exact amount of the increase for health care providers will not be known until October, Messler noted. Another key variable for the 2015 budget is the amount of revenue the district will receive from property taxes in the coming year.

The 2014 EPRD budget approved in December 2013 reflects approximately $5 million in expenses and $5.8 million in revenue.

Executive director search

During the work session, EPRD board members also discussed the search for an executive director to replace Robson, who has accepted another position. Robson will be leaving at the end of the month to begin serving as CEO of the Colorado Mountain Club and the American Alpine Museum in Golden.

Lindquist suggested forming a committee of two board directors to seek candidates and review applications. He also advised using an online application system such as Taleo for the selection process, and other board members agreed.

Lindquist also said he would like to have another employee satisfaction survey done as part of the hiring process.

“I disagree,” said Doyle. “When a director leaves, I don’t think that’s a time to do an employee survey.”

“I still think we need to do a follow-up survey,” said Lindquist.

Doyle also suggested that a job description for the position should be posted internally, and that state sunshine laws be followed in the hiring process.

Robson said he is developing a transition plan with a specific list of projects to be delegated to park staff, which he will give to the board members.

“I’ve done one-on-one discussions with staff,” he said.

“Right now, you are still executive director and have not delegated,” remarked Doyle.

Robson also said he has been getting questions about whether an interim executive director will be appointed, or whether the board of directors will take a leading role until his replacement can be found.

“I think that’s something that needs to be discussed in open session in a regular board meeting,” said Doyle.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.