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Springfield OKs budget with reduced parks funding

Snyder Park course could close after cuts approved.

The city approved next year’s budget without returning National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s subsidy to last year’s level of $1.1 million, which could lead to the closing of 93-year-old Snyder Park Golf Course.

Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday night to next year’s appropriations, meaning the district’s subsidy will remain at $950,000 as recommended by city staff.

At the Dec. 10 meeting, city commissioner Kevin O’Neill, the liaison for NTPRD, asked for the proposed 2014 budget to be changed because he didn’t believe the district could do what it needed to with less funding.

O’Neill did not ask for the subsidy to be returned to $1.1 million on Monday because he said that he didn’t receive any feedback from National Trail.

“I just figured they’re satisfied with making the decision based on the money they’re getting,” O’Neill said.

He believes the city should have returned the subsidy for next year, then cut their budget in 2015.

“Having said that, our budget is sensitive,” O’Neill said. “It’s dismal.”

The NTPRD board was expected to vote on possibly closing Snyder Park Golf Course earlier this month but opted to examine the district’s entire financial outlook before making a decision. The board is expecting to hold a work session early next month before its Jan. 13 board meeting.

If Snyder Park Golf Course were to close, the district would save an estimated $309,000.

During annual budget meetings in November, the city told NTPRD it would receive approximately $340,000 less next year. The district received $1.29 million this year, including $190,000 in extra money to cover shortfalls for both the golf and swimming pool operations.

City commissioners also told the district it would not bail them out if another shortfall were to occur, meaning NTPRD must stay within its budget next year.

O’Neill said he’s opposed to asking a volunteer board to make decisions for the city, then cut their budget before they make those decisions to where “there really isn’t a decision.”

“If they don’t make ends meet, they’re not going to get any more money,” O’Neill said.

He believes NTPRD will need the money for expenses other than golf, and the board will make the “right decision” in regards to the city’s golf courses.

“They’re going to close one, and they may close two,” O’Neill said.

In recent weeks, National Trail has discussed closing Snyder Park’s course, or possibly one of the two Reid Park golf courses. At the work session next month, the district will examine its entire financial outlook for 2014.

The city’s general fund is projected to be $36.5 million next year, approximately $370,000 less than this year’s budget.

Income tax revenues are expected to increase by 1.5 percent next year, but total revenues will be less because of state cuts. Since 2007, the city has seen approximately $3.5 million in annual cuts, which include reductions in local government funds, as well as the phased-out elimination of the estate tax and the tangible personal property tax.

Income tax will make up approximately 74 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.

The city is projected to spend approximately $37.8 next year, down 2 percent from this year’s budget. Payroll expenditures were also reduced by 1.2 percent.

The city will have an approximately $1.3 million operational deficit, which will likely be paid for through the reserve fund.

The city will spend approximately 71 percent of its budget on safety services, including 59 percent on public safety and 12 percent on municipal court. They’ll employ approximately 571 full-time employees, including 128 police officers and 127 firefighters.

Health care costs are also expected to increase by 13 percent next year.

The city’s permanent improvement fund is budgeted for $3.3 million. They’ll use approximately $1.3 million to pay debt. They’ll also replace six police vehicles, three snow plows and a medic unit, as well update computers inside police cruisers.

Sewer rates are scheduled to increase by 4 percent in January, which will be used to pay for the more than $80 million combined sewer overflow project mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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