Park District Board approves budget, reviews facility agreement with Rockford Public Schools

Online Staff Report

The Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners approved the 2015 budget at its Jan. 13 meeting. The Board had already voted in a previous meeting to keep the 2014 tax levy flat, which means the district will not receive any additional funds, which are available revenues tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said: “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. Rockford Park District staff 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 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.

For the past 30 days, the 2015 budget was available for the public to view at the Rockford Park District Webbs Norman Center, Cherry Valley District Library, Rockford Public Library, North Suburban Library, Ogle County Library, and Ida Public Library in Belvidere. No public comments were received at any of the budget viewing locations. A public hearing took place before the board meeting.

The district is sensitive to current economic conditions and objections to paying more taxes at this time, even though it was a challenging year for us weather-wise, and equalized assessed valuations (EAV) continue to decline,” 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.

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 will occur at Sapora Playworld, Magic Waters Waterpark, Riverview Ice House, Carlson Ice Arena, Forest City Queen, Lockwood Park, Trolley Car 36, and various program offerings.

The district will continue to expand discounted online prices, where the best deal is available throughout the season.

Magic Waters Waterpark added two additional operating days to the 2015 season based on the 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 include the following:

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 include the following:

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 as a result 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.

Facility use agreement with Rockford Public Schools reviewed

For many years, Rockford Park District (RPD) and Rockford Public Schools (RPS) have worked side-by-side collaborating on sports events and activities, arts opportunities, and summer academic programs to serve youth in the community. July 23, 2013, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners and the Rockford Public School Board of Education held a joint meeting to pledge their support toward a new partnership called “Teaming Up for Youth.” The initiative recognizes the need to work together in a more efficient and effective manner, which will benefit the community by offering even more opportunities for youth and more cost savings for taxpayers.

Teaming Up for Youth focuses on the following four areas:

1. Holistic Sports Program/Building and Facility Use

2. Recreational and Educational Programming

3. Strategic Land Management/Joint Playground Repair and Replacement

4. Operational Efficiencies and Leveraging of Tax Dollars

At the meeting, a sub-committee was formed with two board representatives from Rockford Public Schools (Tim Rollins, Mike Connor) and two board representatives from the Park District (Ian Linnabary, Jack Armstrong); over the past two years, this sub-committee has worked with administration from both organizations to formulate an official intergovernmental agreement.

Jan. 13, both boards viewed the initial agreement for the first time.

The Rockford School District and the Rockford Park District already have a well-established partnership, and we are excited to continue working together in a strategic manner, by which we can better serve the citizens, particularly our youth, and leverage taxpayer dollars,” said Park District Board of Commissioners President Tyler Smith.

The agreement presented to the Board of Commissioners focuses on joint facility use. Board members will vote on a final intergovernmental agreement Jan. 27, 2015. Once the agreement is signed, both organizations will continue working together to identify further educational and recreational opportunities along with other operational efficiencies to better serve the taxpayers.

Over the next six months, team members from both organizations will further evaluate strategies regarding capital repair and replacement, as well as ongoing maintenance needs of playgrounds on Rockford Public Schools property. Additional reports and agreements may be presented to both boards in the future for review.

Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said: “The development of a partnership agreement will further enhance our strong commitment to area youth. We have a long history of success stories together, and by focusing on the four key areas, we can strategically work towards reducing duplication, improving efficiencies, and enhancing sports and education programs and opportunities for students.”

Intergovernmental agreement highlights include the following:

Rockford Park District will continue to utilize Lewis Lemon School to offer after school and evening recreation programs for youth;

Rockford Park District will continue to use Rockford Environmental Science Academy for summer programming opportunities in partnership with Rockford Public Schools;

Rockford Park District will work with RPS to provide access to Southwest Community Park;

Rockford Park District will continue to utilize various Rockford Public Schools auditoriums, stadiums, locker rooms, gyms, pools, fieldhouses, restrooms, concessions, or classrooms for year-round recreational skill development programs and summer camps;

Rockford Park District and Rockford Public Schools will work together to renovate Auburn High School and Guilford High School Tennis Center courts prior to the end of the 2015-2016 school year. After renovations are complete, Rockford Public Schools will retain control of the tennis courts. The Park District is granted priority status for use of the facilities during non-school hours for community use. The tennis courts at both high schools have been maintained and repaired by the Park District, but renovations are needed.

Auburn High School Tennis Courts — The Park District will pay to repair two of the six tennis courts at Auburn High School. The remaining four will be repaired and paid for by RPS.

Guilford High School Tennis Courts — A total of 14 tennis courts currently exist. RPS would be responsible for replacing six of the 14 courts. The Park District will be responsible for removing the remaining eight courses but will work with the tennis community to determine how many new courts should be added. In all, a minimum of eight lighted courses will on site.

Rockford Public Schools will continue to utilize Rockford Park District golf courses for various team practices and events;

Rockford Public Schools will utilize various Rockford Park District support equipment such as bleachers or picnic tables for practices, games, or events; and

Rockford Park District will continue to set up, stripe, and maintain various baseball diamonds and other district facilities for RPS use.

Posted Jan. 15, 2015

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