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Public invited to comment on park district budget

Under the Vashon Park District's proposed 2011 budget, all popular park district programs will continue, but district-sponsored sports teams will be expected to collectively pay about about twice as much for services than they have in the past.

The district hopes to collect about $20,000 next year by asking teams to cover costs the district has paid for or partially paid for until now — such as paint for field lines or the rental of dumpsters and portable toilets — and perhaps imposing sports registration fees.

The park district's board of commissioners spent about three months examining the district's finances and determining how to cut 10 percent, or about $131,000, from the budget. The difficult cuts stem from the Island’s decline in property values. Islanders’ home values dropped 12 percent last year, resulting in less revenue to the park district, which collects revenue at a set rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Wendy Braicks, the park district's executive director, said the additional revenue from sports teams is reflected in the draft budget, but the details would be worked out when the district negotiates its contracts with the teams later next year. The district sponsors soccer, swimming, baseball, lacrosse and other youth and adult clubs.

Board member LuAnn Branch said the change would put the park district's practices more in line with those of other districts and recreation centers in the state.

“We're leaving revenue on the table by not charging the fees that other rec centers are charging,” she said.

The board at one point considered cutting the hours of three administrative employees to total about $45,000 in savings but ultimately voted to maintain current administrative staffing levels.

Branch said she believes the district's staff are all needed and cutting office workers' hours would impede the district's operations.

“There would be inefficiencies,” she said. “We need to invest in them for the long term and create a culture you can provide excellent service through.”

Commissioner David Hacket disagreed. At a recent park board meeting, he said he wished the board would rethink what he called a “bloated staffing model” before asking sports teams to chip in more.

“Until we're willing to look at the costs and expenses that we incur internally, I don't think we should be asking others to cover the costs,” he told them.

Bill Ameling, another commissioner, said he thought the board examined the budget line by line and efficiently trimmed without sacrificing the district's services.

“We've always had a reputation of watching out for the public money, and this time around I thought we did an especially good job,” he said.

Also included in the budget is the elimination of two maintenance worker positions. The workers have already been laid off by the district and one maintenance worker with wider responsibilities will be hired.

The board of commissioners will take public comments at its Jan. 11 budget meeting, where commissioners are expected to vote to adopt the budget.

The final draft of the park district's 2011 budget will be available next week at www.vashonparkdistrict.org. The public is invited to comment on the budget at the board of commissioners' budget meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, at the district offices at Ober Park.

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