Park district looks at ways to trim budget

The Vashon Park District, facing falling tax revenues and the financial pressure of its unfinished fields project, needs to shave $124,282 from its 2012 budget, park officials said last week.

Park district commissioners, at their regular meeting last week, quickly discussed a list of potential cuts to the $1.7 million spending plan they passed four months ago. The list, drafted by Executive Director Jan Milligan, includes cutting more than $100,000 in personnel costs, trimming $3,000 from the furnishings budget for its vacation rentals and a $2,500 savings in insurance by raising the district’s deductibles.

Her list also includes additional revenue she hopes to see — such as $15,000 from the Vashon Pool and $5,000 from business sponsorships of its free concert series.

The budget adjustment also includes an additional $160,000 in costs for the fields project north of town — expenses the district hopes to offset by $100,000 in grants and fundraising.

“This is just an everyday reduction,” park district Chair Bill Ameling said after the meeting. “You expand when taxes go up; you reduce when taxes go down.”

The district’s tax revenues have fallen slightly in the last three years due to declining property values. In 2010, the park district received $1.3 million in levy funds; in 2011, it received $1.16 million; this year, the agency expects to receive $1.12 million. Meanwhile, its budget has climbed from $1.5 million in 2010 to $1.71 million this year.

The proposed personnel cuts include a $50,000 savings the district would incur from not replacing the agency’s maintenance supervisor Tim Lafferty, who stepped down in January. District officials said at the time they expected to fill that position this year, but under this proposal, Milligan would take on his responsibilities for 2012.

Milligan said she wasn’t sure how the other $50,000 in personnel reductions would be achieved — possibly by not filling a position, should someone on the 11-member staff step down. But she said it should not be difficult. The $50,000 represents 10 percent of the district’s salaries, she said, adding, “A 10 percent cut for us is minor.”

The reductions also include potential cuts to employees’ health insurance plans — shaving $11,500 from the benefit package by no longer extending coverage to spouses and dependents. Commissioners, how-

ever, expressed concern over the proposal and decided to set it aside for now. “I’m not convinced (cutting benefits) is worth $11,500,” David Hackett, a commissioner, said.

The adjustments, Milligan and Ameling said, will help the district rebuild its reserve fund — depleted last year because of the fields project, Milligan said in December. If it rebuilds its reserve, the district would no longer have to take out a short-term loan each year to bridge the gap between its twice-annual property tax infusions, she said.

“By next year, we’ll cut that dependency,” she said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner LuAnn Branch, who recently formed a human resources committee for the board, said she hopes the proposed budget cuts don’t lead to staff layoffs.

“Last year, the staff had to go through an exercise of legitimizing itself. It was incredibly stressful for the staff,” she said.

Branch said declining tax revenues have put pressure on the park district as have the costs of the fields project and the park district’s decision to take on a swimming pool.

“If we had didn’t have the pressure of the Vashon fields project, we’d be further ahead,” she said.

An avid swimmer, Branch added, “But I have to say, to be fair, ... the pool is going to be a drain on our budget as well.”


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