Washington Parks Department ‘At a Standstill’ In Fees, Charges Study - The Missourian: Local News

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Washington Parks Department ‘At a Standstill’ In Fees, Charges Study

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 9:00 pm

The Washington City Council has agreed to review parks department fees and charges.

A parks department subcommittee has been studying the fees for the past year, but is at a standstill until it receives input from the city on how much it’s expected to recover cost-wise, according to Darren Dunkle, parks director.

Dunkle sat down with The Missourian to review the department’s revenues versus expenses and to talk about why the city’s input is important.

All figures were from a report dated Aug. 28. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30, but that report had not been finalized yet.

Big Driver

Big Driver had a revenue of $10,110.25. Of that, $7,263 was from the driving range and $2,847.25 was from miniature golf.

Big Driver had expenditures of $17,764 during the same time, most of which was for wages for part-time seasonal employees.

The deficit is $7,653.94.

Aquatics Complex

The Agnes Nolting Aquatics Complex has never been self sustaining, Dunkle said.

Through the August 28 report date, it had a revenue of $63,073.75.

A total of $47,724.25 was from admissions; $3,660 from day camp use; and $10,140.50 from swimming lessons.

An additional $1,549 was collected in pool rental fees.

The pool had expenses of $106,758.51, in which $82,548.94 came from contracted services such as lifeguards.

The deficit is $43,684.76.

Dunkle noted that the above numbers are for pool operations only and do not include special projects like the addition of the new splash playground — a $60,000 project.

Other Revenue

Camp Washington revenue was $46,194.

General revenue was $283,248.80. Among other revenue, the total includes:

Special activities, $22,418.60; rental of the auditorium, $2,835; sports field use, $290 (many checks had not yet made it in); administration building rental, $1,225; and pavilion rental $12,440.

The overall total revenue for the department was $356,432.80.

Expenses

General expenses for the department were $993,062.53.

The general expenses do not include special activities, $20,376.20; day camp, $43,540.76; Big Driver, $17,764.19; or the aquatics complex, $106,758.51.

The total expenditures are $1,013,438.73 — a deficit of nearly $800,000 that is covered by a transfer from the city’s general fund.

At the end of August, the recovery rate stood at about 30 percent. Dunkle said he expects it to be closer to 18-23 percent once all expenses are paid.

Last year, the recovery rate was closer to 16 percent and the year before stood at only 12 percent.

Dunkle noted that the national recovery rate for a parks/recreation department is 46 percent.

However, if the city wanted the parks department to fall in line with the national average, the only way to do so would be to eliminate programs or activities, adjust fees or charges or leave the fees as they are and go out for a special tax.

Dunkle said people don’t understand that the expenses aren’t covered. Sales tax has been flat and property assessments have dropped.

“That affects our overall budget,” he said.

And while Washington has a great volunteer base, “like I’ve never seen before,” Dunkle said it’s difficult to exclude certain groups from fees and charges and not others.

He said at least 75 percent of the users are nonprofit groups, which is different from what he’s seen in other cities, where residents were the primary facility users.

“We’ve got to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “How does this affect the parks department and the city as a whole to be able to fund and operate these facilities?”

Dunkle said that in reviewing fees, the park board has been trying to make them equitable.

“The current ordinance wasn’t totally clear and equitable,” he said.

Breaking It Down

The park committee studying the fees has looked at having weekend and weekday rates, as well as breaking down resident and nonresident use and other ways to make the fees more equitable.

Dunkle said the committee doesn’t know where to go without further direction.

Mayor Sandy Lucy said she “understands the concern” and that the council needs to review all numbers before determining its vision.

The issue will be discussed at upcoming parks and council meetings.

/local_news