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North Whidbey Park and Rec board passes budget, increases fees

North Whidbey Park and Recreation District Commissioners and district citizens arrive at the Nov. 21 meeting. The board had to schedule a special meeting Monday to pass the budget. - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
North Whidbey Park and Recreation District Commissioners and district citizens arrive at the Nov. 21 meeting. The board had to schedule a special meeting Monday to pass the budget.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

After two budget workshops and two meetings, the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District Board of Commissioners passed its 2014 budget.

The board approved a 10 percent fee increase to all programs, except for pool rentals and swim school. Fees for swim school were raised by 20 percent 18 months ago, while other programs fees hadn’t increased since 2006.

The budget also removed $1,000 from the swim team coach’s travel expenses, decreased telephone expenses by $600, removed retirement benefits from salaried employees and decreased the future director’s salary by $4,156.84.

District Director Bill Walker resigned at the previous meeting Thursday, Nov. 21 and his last day is Dec. 21.

The budget passed assumes no director would be hired until March at the earliest, so the district can save money on that salary for January and February.

Commission Chair Sean Merrill was not present at the meeting so Commissioner Lori Clark filled in as chair.

At the minimum it will take two months to fill the director’s position, Clark said.

During the discussion leading up to passing the budget, Clark advocated not to reduce current staff.

“We shouldn’t cut staff because we’re losing a director and we’re at a good place right now,” Clark said.

But by cutting the future director’s salary the board can balance the budget, Clark said.

The senior staff can take charge and keep things running until a new director is found, Walker said. If the staff answers to a point person on the board, the district can save money on an interim director.

“This staff has been a pride and fortune for me,” Walker said. “There needs to be somebody (for them) to go to.”

Commissioner Kirk Huffer agreed with decreasing the next director’s salary. With the deadline to approve the budget looming, he said they needed to take action.

“It gives us more time to think about things,” Huffer said. “We’ve got a lot of work going forward.”

Amendments can be made in the future when looking at certain programs and negotiating salaries, but for now a budget needed to be approved, Huffer said.

Commissioner Allan McDougall wanted to examine the allocation for janitors’ hours and wages in the budget to see if the district could save money by assigning lifeguards some janitorial duties.

Clark disagreed and said the two jobs are separate and that lifeguards shouldn’t be distracted from their work. Plus the pool has become a lot cleaner and didn’t want to backtrack on that progress.

“I don’t want to see people’s wages cut,” Commissioner Steve Hoffmire said.

To balance the budget, the board also approved a 1 percent increase to the levy from the pervious year. The previous year’s levy was $576,000 and the increase bumps it up to $581,760 for 2014.

When talking about raising program fees, Hoffmire said the common thread pointed out by taxpayers is the rate charged for North Whidbey Aquatic Club. For other parents in the area, they are shocked at the inexpensive fees for the competitive swim club compared to the other select sports programs on the island, Hoffmire said. Because of the personal involvement of board members with the NWAC and Masters programs, that can be hard to see.

“NWAC has changed our lives,” Hoffmire said. “It’s tough. As much as I don’t want to, I’m inclined to go to 15 percent.”

“I care about people involved and it affects their lives.”

Huffer pointed out that if fees are increased too much, then participation declines and the revenue doesn’t increase. The board decided to stay with the 10 percent increase to programs.

 

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