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Rec district ends 2007 with a surplus

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By Stephen Knapp

Since the Jan. 15 Evergreen Park and Recreation District public board meeting was incoming executive director John Skeel’s first, it’s just as well that it was fairly routine.

A brief rundown of 2007’s budget picture topped the evening’s agenda, along with a look at financial prospects for the coming year, and both topics contained more good news than bad.

December figures show EPRD’s 2007 revenues falling about $100,000 below projections. On the upside, a host of new economies brought anticipated expenditures down a cool $245,000 last year, leaving the district’s 2007 balance sheet in the black to the tune of $145,000.

With the district’s major bond projects largely complete, current estimates show the $4 million trio coming in remarkably close to originally projected costs. While the Evergreen Recreation Center remodel ran about $68,000 over budget and Stagecoach Park cost about $47,000 more than planned, the new Marshdale playing fields opened at a full $108,000 under budget, leaving the district facing a capital project overrun of less than $7,000, or about 0.2 percent.

In total, EPRD authorized itself to spend some $5,554,000 last year. By the time the last of its 2007 bills are paid, the district expects to have expended something closer to $5,269,000, leaving a tidy $285,000 available for other business. That cash will come in handy this spring when contractors start expanding the ERC weight room into the hillside behind the center, a venture predicted to run about $200,000.

Other district projects and price tags for the coming year include a $50,000 EPRD contribution to the new Bergen Meadow playing field, $45,000 for improvements on the Alderfer House, $11,500 for fencing at Stagecoach Park and an $8,000 contribution to the Kittredge and Arrowhead playground. Another $25,000 is slated to fund a Buchanan Park Master Plan feasibility study in cooperation with the Evergreen Arts Council. The district has earmarked a total of $506,300 for new projects in 2008.

If the district’s financial future looks rosy at a glance, EPRD board treasurer, Allan Casey, took the floor to point out potential troubles ahead.

“After the next round of property tax valuations, we could actually see a decrease in our property tax revenues,” Casey said. “I don’t think this district has ever faced a decrease, and I think we need to talk about putting some money in the bank as a reserve for the future.”

To bolster his argument, Casey turned to the S&P/Case-Schiller index tracking home prices in the Denver metropolitan area during the last seven years. In graph form, the index shows area home valuations shooting up nearly 25 percent between 2000 and mid-2006, followed by a gentle but unmistakable downward trend beginning in late 2006 and continuing through 2007. Should that trend continue through 2008, and Casey fears it will, he estimates that EPRD property tax revenues could decline somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.8 percent when the new assessments take hold in 2010.

“At best, I think we can expect no increase for four years,” he said. “If it falls, we’re going to have to generate additional revenue through fee increases, new programs or grants. I think we need to start talking about building a fund to be spent starting in 2010. I hope the world proves me wrong on this, but I really think that’s what we’re looking at.”

Casey’s fellow board members seemed agreeable to such a fund, at least in principle, and the board will take up the matter in greater depth at a future meeting.