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Recreation program subsidies an issue in Roswell budget vote
by Joan Durbin
June 05, 2012 09:55 PM | 1293 views | 1 1 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roswell’s 2013 budget has been approved by council at $59.9 million for the general fund and a total $109.3 million for all funds.

Millage rate is unchanged from last year’s 5.455.

The biggest changes for city operations will be outsourcing code enforcement and building inspections, as well as turning the city jail into a short-term holding facility and eliminating 15 full time detention officers.

But a difference in philosophy between Roswell Mayor Jere Wood and a council majority surfaced again at Wednesday’s second budget hearing when they disagreed on to what degree some of the city’s popular recreation programs should be subsidized.

In Wood’s proposed 2013 city budget, the recreation participation fund, which traditionally has offset the costs of programs to prevent having to increase program fees, had no cushion for expenditures.

With no extra money from the city subsidizing the costs of operating city rec programs, some officials have been concerned the move might force fee hikes.

Prior to a final vote on the budget Wednesday night, Councilman Jerry Orlans proffered an amendment would put some more money into the fund.

His motion moved the payments for financing synthetic turf on city ball fields out of the rec participation fund and into the general operating budget.

The borrowed $1.5 million to buy the turf and its actual purchase would then become part of the capital projects fund.

The adjustments provided a budgeted net income of $67,946 in the recreation participation fund, and provides $12,000 for operating contingency in the general fund.

Wood said he was unequivocally opposed to the shuffle. He said he has been trying for years to find out what the actual costs of all the rec and parks programs were so the city could move towards making most of them self-supporting.

While athletic programs receive no subsidies, others get up to $50 to $60 in subsidies for each participant, Wood said. “I do not understand why we do not raise fees to at least get close to our costs. I don’t think it’s fair to the taxpayers of Roswell.”

To take the turf fields out of the rec participation fund and “bury” then in the general fund “goes against what I’ve been working for 14 years, transparency in the rec department,” the mayor said.

But Orlans said the rec commission had already raised fees this year by $200,000 and the participation fund “should not be taking the hit for these fields” because field maintenance has always been paid for from the general fund.

Councilman Kent Igleheart said the subsidies Roswell has always contributed to the participation fund “go to the full time staff that makes these programs go forward and lets us have the best programs in the country.” Councilman Rich Dippolito said he agreed with Wood that people who participate in city programs “should be charged fully” because subsidies aren’t fair to Roswell citizens.

But thought a reasonable compromise would be allowing the rec commission to continue working on making program fees “closer to where we want them to be.”

Orlans’ amendment passed with only Councilwoman Betty Price opposed.

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