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Park district budget reflects anticipated drop in tax revenues

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By Sandy Barnes

Members of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District board grappled with a projected decrease in property tax revenue while discussing the first draft of the 2014 budget at the Aug. 27 meeting.

"We were anticipating flat, or up," said Scott Robson, EPRD executive director. 

Instead, projections from the Jefferson County assessor's office indicate a $58,000 decrease in revenue in the coming year, he said.

"We're dealing with 2011 taxes," said EPRD board member Mark Footer. "I don't think we're going to look at stabilization for another two years."

However, overall district program income is anticipated to increase by about $67,000 compared to 2013, according to the 2014 budget draft. Increases in registrations for children's programs, climbing play school and sports programs are expected to provide additional revenue, along with a Nordic center planned at the Evergreen Golf Course.

The first draft of the 2014 budget had total operating revenues projected at $5,635,859 and total operating expenses projected at $5,000,321. Total net operating revenue is estimated at $635,538, said Karen Messler, controller for the district.

"This is the year we've got to make substantial changes in the programs," Robson said during his budget presentation. "We're looking to streamline our pass system."

Some of the programs areas, such as the racquetball court at Wulf Recreation Center, have limited use and could be repurposed to generate additional revenues, Robson remarked.

Board member Kit Darrow asked Robson if the Nordic center is a sure thing. 

"Nothing is sure until the ink is dry on the paper," replied Robson. "We're not looking to market or promote this until we get a signed deal."

"There's a concern about parking impact," Footer said. "We want to make sure we manage the traffic flow."

Events that the park district sponsors or facilitates, including the Winter Festival, the Evergreen Music Festival, the summer concert series and Boogie at the Barn are projected to net approximately $13,000 in 2014.

To control expenses, the first draft of the 2014 budget does not include merit raises for park district employees, Robson said. In the past two years, park district employees were given an average 2.5 percent merit increase.

Another consideration in the lack of merit raises is that health insurance premiums are projected to increase by more than 10 percent in the coming year, Robson noted.

The initial draft of the new budget does include funds to hire an additional full-time employee as the Lake House event manager, and several part-time employees, including a park ranger for the Lake Park, additional lifeguards, an athletics program assistant and a day-care supervisor at Wulf Recreation Center.

"Can we really afford to hire all these new people?" asked board member Janet Heck Doyle. "If we hire new staff, will we have to increase revenues?"

"In the first draft, we are trying not to increase fees … or bring down our level of service," said Robson. 

To minimize the impact on the district's capital improvement fund, the plan is to use state funds, Robson said.

Heck Doyle pointed out that the park district has a reserve fund of $196,000.

"Why wouldn't we use some of that to cover?" she asked. "That's what it was set aside for."

Because of the economic downturn in recent years, the park district has shied away from spending reserve funds, Robson said.

"If we can accomplish all the goals without tapping into the reserve, wouldn't that be better?" asked Darrow.

Heck Doyle also said that because the Lake Park generates profits for the district, it should be paying for the park ranger and event coordinator.

"The answer is to look at expenses and how they are allocated," she said.

In 2014 the park district's combined mill rate is expected to be 7.372 mills, or a tax rate of $0.007372 for every $1 of assessed value, said Messler. The annual property tax on a $300,000 house in the park district would be $176 in 2014.

The park district serves 23,000 residents and includes Evergreen Lake Park and the Buchanan and Wulf recreation centers.

 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.