City discusses parks budgeting issues in work session

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nevada, Mo. -- There have been many changes in the city's parks department during the past year. There's a new parks department director, a new community center director and a new activities director. Numerous improvements also have taken place in the parks, and Nevada City Manager JD Kehrman told the city council during a budget work session Thursday, that he would recommend they postpone making any big changes in parks and recreation fees for a while.

Thursday's work session, which focused on the municipal court and the parks, was the third in a series of sessions in preparation to adopting a budget in December. Their next work session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the City Hall conference room.

Kehrman told the council that in 2011 the park department's focus was on maintenance and he would like to see the department focus on adding new programming in 2012.

"Let's show what we can do with new programming -- then revisit the fees," Kehrman told the council.

With no parks department director for much of the last year, there has been little in the way of new programming to meet the community's needs at the community center or elsewhere.

The community center has already announced that adult basketball leagues will be starting this month.

However, that does not mean there will be no fee increases this year.

Council member James McKenzie suggested that they should at least adjust the fees to account for inflation to prevent the need for large increases a couple of years down the road to cover increased costs.

Kehrman said that the park board had also expressed concerns about inflation and he would have them make a recommendation based on the consumer price index or some other indicator before the council finishes working on the budget.

"The fees recover a very small portion of the operation costs," he told the council.

As part of the council's review of the proposed 2012 budget for the parks, they also looked at the park construction, which is funded by a 1/2-cent sales tax that will expire in 2014, when a permanent 1/2-cent sales tax to fund the parks department will replace it. The current tax can only be used for specific construction projects approved by the voters.

And Kehrman emphasized that any money collected from the current one-half cent construction sales tax will only be used for the projects approved by the voters. Although the tax expires at the end of 2014, payments from that tax will continue to be received by the city in 2015.

That tax brings about $700,000 per year and over its nine year life will bring in about $6.2 million to cover the cost of five projects, including the expansion of the community center, Twin Lakes Sports Complex improvements, golf course club house, walking trails and renovation of Earp Park, Randy Marti told the council.

"The community center was the number one item on the list and it took about one-half of the money to build," Marti said.

The ball fields at Twin Lakes are done and the walking trails will be done in 2013 or 2014. The city is almost ready to put the concession stand at the ball fields out for bids. Earp Park is on hold until the city knows what will be done about the Public Safety Building, he told the council.

Marti said that they have had some meetings with the senior golfers about what they would like in a club house at the golf course and are about ready to enter the preliminary design phase of the project and hope to solicit bids this month, with a final design by the end of the year. They do the clubhouse construction next spring and summer.

"The golfers don't want a Taj Mahal, just a new place," councilmember Jayne Novak said.

The money to operate the parks department currently comes from several sources; and, for the 2012 budget. Kehrman told the parks board that he is estimating there will be about $526,000 transferred from the general fund for operations, $18,000 from the special project fund for mowing at the north campus, and $12,000 from the general fund for other mowing. The department will also receive about $69,500 from the cigarette tax and an undetermined amount from payments in lieu of taxes.

"The department has done a great job of keeping costs under control," he told the council.

The $526,000 from the general fund is quite a bit less than in 2011 because there are no major repairs expected at the pool and some one-time capital expenses from 2011 will not be included, he told the council.

"We need to hold the line as much as possible until the new sales tax comes on-line in 2014," Kehrman said.