Park district approves budget, strategic plan
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:49
Wood County park commissioners approved a 2014 budget Tuesday that includes merit-based pay raises for employees.
The raises, in a new structure approved last month, range from zero to 4 percent based on evaluations. Those increases, along with a restructuring of several positions, resulted in a 4-percent increase in salary expenses from 2013.
The overall budget also increased about 4 percent, from $3,661,004.18 in 2013 to $3,810,410.86 for next year. The park district expects to have about $4.2 million to carry-over into 2014, with $2,760,000 forecasted to come in during the year from a 1-mill levy that isn't up for renewal until 2018. Additional income is estimated at $67,295, mostly coming from farm and shelter rentals.
Commissioner Joe Long said he thought the district should be earning more from its land rental to farmers, with ideal income at around $200 per acre.
"I think we're really short-changing ourselves on the farm rental side," he said.
"As we all know, farm property has certainly escalated in recent years."
Munger said he thought the average now was about $163. One property is in the middle of a contract, while another will be up next year.
"I will look into those," Munger said.
The bulk of $537,500 budgeted for new capital improvement projects will be spent improving the Bradner Preserve, with the 2014 project totaling about $350,000 after an increase to an estimate to install a parking lot.
"I think that's a little high, but I'm going to put it in the budget just to be safe," Munger said.
The board also approved an update to the park district's strategic plan, last revised in 2007. The plan prioritizes additional programs, activities and permanent improvements based on staff suggestions, online comments and information shared during a series of public meetings.SClBItems identified for 2014 include more naturalist-led field programs, such as bird-watching; adult programs like wine tasting and beer making; wilderness survival programs; and development of more modern camping while promoting existing wilderness camping. Possibilities further out include an archery range, more hunting and fishing opportunities, further development of trails, and organized scavenger hunts and geocaching events. The plan also identifies prioritized capital improvement projects through 2018.
Park staff will participate in an all-day meeting next week to discuss how each department may best implement aspects of the plan.
Part of the plan states that the district needs to keep a close eye on employee salaries comparable to other counties.
Munger said that aspect came from public suggestion rather than staff, and that the group has lost some valuable employees because of pay shortcomings. Training, for example, creates an investment in staff that is lost when employees leave, he said.
"We've lost some very valuable people here, not only in terms of longevity and years of service here, but in knowledge."
The complete plan can be downloaded at www.woodcountyparkdistrict.org.
In other business, the board agreed to shift its meetings one hour earlier to 3 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in 2014.
Also approved was a purchase order not to exceed $7,380, the amount of the only bid received, from Eric Palmer Trucking and Excavating for demolition of a house in North Baltimore. Additional bids are expected to be received to tear down the two-story home to create green space next to the Slippery Elm Trail.
The board separately approved a change order to increase by $6,630.26 a project to add parking and restrooms to the Black Swamp Preserve in Bowling Green.
The group entered executive session to discuss personnel, with no action following.