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No Wiggle Room in City Department Budgets for Next Year

Subsidies for departments including the Expo Center and the Enumclaw Golf Course continue to irk councilmembers during the second of four budget workshops this fall.

Several city departments including Parks and Recreation, Community Development and the Expo Center were under scrutiny Wednesday during the second of four budget workshops this fall ahead of the drafting of the final 2013 budget.

Below is a summary of some of the discussion that took place for the various funds. To view the preliminary budget, click here (PDF).

Senior Center:

Senior Center Manager Jobyna Nickum reported they were recently the recipient of a Community Development Block Grant from King County for the sum of $99,999 which will go toward several facilities improvements at the aging Senior Center building. No further requests for funds have been requested of the city for next year, so funding remains about the same as last year save for an increase in interfund services as needed, noted Finance Director Stephanie McKenzie.

Councilman Jim Hogan commented to Nickum, "I'm always amazed at how much you're able to do" with what funding you do have.

Nickum acknowledged her staff as well as the many community volunteers who help keep services at the Senior Center going.

Parks, Recreation and Maintenance:

Community Development Director Erika Shook said no staffing changes would be occuring next year though the department saw lower revenues come in from this summer's summer camp than usual. Typically, the department can average about $60,000 each year but the total hit only about $34,000 this summer.

Shook said it's hard to point out one specific cause but not distributing the recreational brochure this year may have played a role. The department finds about 30 percent of its clients use that brochure to sign up for programs, she said.

Councilman Mike Ennis asked Shook how the restructure of the department was working since there is no department head for Parks. Shook said given tight budget which decreases her workload with some other responsibilities, the arrangement is fine. When revenues do increase, however, a department head would be welcome.

A priority project next year, said Shook, is to continue to development for Elk Meadows.

Expo Center:

Marketing Director Kristen Damazio reported Monday on the third quarter financials for the Expo Center and indicated plans were still tracking to close the deficit gap between expenditures and revenue by 2014.

Ennis pointed out the plan last year indicated the deficit would be at $40,000 for 2013, but this year's updated plan now has the deficit at $60,000 and asked Damazio to account for that. It presented a red flag, he said, that getting to the 2014 goal may not happen.

Things didn't go according to plan, Damazio said. Two events scheduled for this year were cancelled - one potentially large one due to illness. "This is really a difficult job to try and project what's going to happen," she said.

Ennis reaffirmed his appreciation for Damazio's remaining on task in her role but said he wanted to point out the change.

Council also briefly touched on $300,000 that went out last year of the Expo Center's $1 million designated for capital projects from King County. That amount is set to come back and Ennis posed whether that needed to return to capital or perhaps to operating.

Councilman Chance LaFleur said he'd prefer not to see further subsidizing of operations. McKenzie said the money from King County may have originated from REET in which case it would need to return to capital. She would check.

Community Development:

Shook said revenues are low; the department continues to see a lot of lower value permit activity but not so much of the variety for construction or larger projects.

The department is also offloading building inspection services to the city of Auburn due to current low demand. There's not enough volume to justify the city supporting a building official position now, she said.

Aquatic Center:

The pool's new WIBIT toy is generating good revenue, Shook said.

The city will be replacing the starting blocks next year used primarily by club and school swimmers. Accordingly, a private group is putting forth a $6,000 donation toward the project, as is the Enumclaw School District; the city will also match with its own $6,000 from impact fees.

Golf Course:

The golf course continues to operate at a loss, said City Administrator Mike Thomas. The city began running it in 2010 and has since invested at least $150,000 in improvements, $350,000 in equipment and a $23,000/year lease for golf carts.

The facility is buoyed by the volunteer work of both the Men's and Ladies Golf Clubs.

Some factors include a noted decline in course use since 2003, Thomas said, as well as the climate challenges of running this course in its current location.

The city is again preparing an RFP for an outside operator to take over the course. Thomas also noted in accordance with the contract with King County, the city has no obligation to run the golf course in this location; it just has to have a parks program here.

Ennis said he still sees the fault in the golf course not being able to generate revenue is with the city.

City Attorney Mike Reynolds pointed out that contrary to how a private enterprise would run this business, the depreciations schedules are different. Ennis acknowledged this but said that only accounts for differences in expenditures; it doesn't factor in to why revenues are low, he said.

Mayor Liz Reynolds pointed out that since the city acquired the golf course, it isn't able to dredge the creek as the previous owner had done due to environmental restrictions. The creek has a direct impact on the flooding problem.

LaFleur asked if perhaps rates for the course could be more competitive with surrounding golf courses.

Next Up:

The third budget workshop takes place Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Topics to be covered include Public Works, Capital and Significant Expenditures, Outside Agency Funding, Contingency, Interfund Transfers, Welcome Center and Debt Service.

Click here to view a summary of the first budget session.

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