Park District operating levy to remain flat, district honored for financial reporting

Online Staff Report

At the Tuesday, Dec. 9, Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners meeting, the board approved to keep the 2014 tax levy flat. The vote means the district will not receive any additional funds, which are available revenues tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Even though it was a challenging year for us weather-wise, and equalized assessed valuations (EAV) continue to decline, the district is sensitive to current economic conditions and objections to paying more taxes at this time,” said Board of Commissioners President Tyler Smith.

The EAV, tax levy extension, and tax rates are only estimates, as the actual information will not be available until spring 2015. However, the district continues to reduce administrative costs, re-bid and negotiate contracts, reduce and/or eliminate programs, and adjust or cancel program and facility schedules when attendance expectations are not met, to operate even more efficiently.

Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said: “We are fully committed to being good stewards of public funds while delivering a high-quality park and recreation system at a reasonable cost. The 2015 budget is a lean budget that stretches financial and human resources while still achieving a high quality of standards in every area of operation.”

2015 budget by the numbers:

The 2015 operating budget is $31,009,657; compared to 2014, this represents a decrease of $171,931, or minus 0.55 percent. The 2015 capital  budget is $27,721,145.

Overview of programs and services:

Maintaining free and low-cost programs, especially for youth and families;

The community will continue to have access to free family entertainment, including: Music in the Park, Imagination Station, Live at Levings, Domingo en el Parque, and Tunes on the Terrace;

Modest fee increases at Sapora Playworld, Magic Waters Waterpark, Riverview Ice House, Carlson Ice Arena, Forest City Queen, Lockwood Park, Trolley Car 36, and various program offerings;

Continue to expand discounted online prices where the best deal is available throughout the season; and

Magic Waters Waterpark added two additional operating days to the 2015 season based on summer holiday schedule and price discounts throughout the weekdays, eliminated Sizzlin’ Summer Nights (Monday and Friday), and will offer one $12 Buck Bargain day per week.

Revenue adjustments:

Continued decline in the EAV has caused direct year-over-year declines in revenue for the Police, Museum, and Therapeutic Recreation funds. The levies for these funds have declined $280,706 in the Police Fund, $323,730 in the Museum Fund, and $184,988 in the Therapeutic Recreation Fund from the 2011 through 2013 levies. The district is projecting an additional decrease of about $41,971 in the Police Fund, $117,719 in the Museum Fund, and $66,554 in the Therapeutic Recreation Fund with the 2014 levy.

Magic Waters revenue projections decreased $277,788 to budget more conservatively, considering weather fluctuations and reduction of Sizzlin’ Summer Nights.

Decreased projected revenue of $474,085 for golf rounds, season permits, lessons, outings, and tournaments as a result of industry trends and decline in demand.

Expenditure adjustments:

District-wide reduction in utility costs with energy efficient lighting initiatives;

Reallocated resources from the golf department to the maintenance department to continue to address parks and facilities infrastructure;

Reduction in liability insurance because of the achievements of the district’s safety program;

Reduced maintenance and operational expenses to meet the declining trend in softball programs;

To maintain competitive wages and benefits, a 2 percent wage increase for full-time and seasonal staff; and

Operational efficiencies and reductions in internal service departments, programs, and facilities.

The proposed budget will be available for public review over the next month, and a public hearing will be held at 5 p.m., Jan. 13, 2015. Formal approval by the board will likely take place at the Jan. 13, 2015, board meeting.

Rockford Park District receives award for excellence in financial reporting

Chief Financial Officer Penny Christians presented Board President Tyler Smith with the Government Finance Officers Association’s (GFOA) award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting (PAFR). The Park District received the award for its Popular Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2013. This is the sixth consecutive year the district has received this award.

We take pride in knowing that we are clearly communicating our financial story to our owners, bondholders, partners, and participants,” said Christians. “Accountability and transparency to our citizens and stakeholders are two priorities required by our Board of Commissioners. The GFOA award assures our citizens that the Park District is achieving those objectives.”

To receive the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting, a government unit must publish a Popular Annual Financial Report, whose contents conform to program standards of creativity, presentation, understandability and reader appeal.

Posted Dec. 10, 2014

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