Marion council still reviewing recreation director position

No decisions were made at the June 8 Marion City Council meeting regarding the recreation director?s position held by Margo Yates.

Until recently, the position received compensation from the city and USD 408-Marion. But, late in 2014, the school district planned to drop the funding from its budget, said City Administrator Roger Holter.

?(USD 408 Superintendent) Lee Leiker got with their auditors and extended the timeline paying Margo on the current joint program,? he said.

Based on that decision, Holter said it afforded the opportunity for both sides to review the choices available.

The council looked at three options, which Holter outlined at the meeting.

In Option 1, the city could bring its plan of having parks and recreation under the same umbrella, he said.

Option 2 could have the current recreation commission going to the voters to request tax-levy authorization.

In other words, the recreation commission would be a tax entity, have employees and an employer ID number, and would handle its own payroll.

?This is probably an uphill challenge,? Holter said.

Currently, both the school district and city are able to operate a recreation program under state statutes.

The problem for school districts, he said, is about the availability of state funding.

?It?s very challenging, but (the Marion) school board is very committed to getting as many resources as possible to the classroom and students,? Holter said.

Option 3 would involve the school district diverting money for the recreation program.

?The school board is going to explore all the options to see if they can better administer a recreation program or if the city could,? Holter said. ?This is a joint effort and so we are in constant communication (with the school district).?

Consolidate parks, rec

Holter said the council has already explored the options, and from its standpoint, it makes more sense to consolidate the operations of parks with recreation.

?We could leverage those resources that are available rather than creating a whole new tier and layer to go on department structure.?

The initial cost for implementing this position would be about $108,000, according to Holter. Part of the cost would be offset with revenues from rec programs and from efficiencies of operation.

Holter cited an example where three departments carried out the same task using the same equipment.

?It would make better sense to have two pieces of equipment with one person scheduling,? he said. ?We need to leverage resources so we are not spending more of the taxpayer dollars.?

Holter said after three years, the recreation and parks program should be financially self-sufficient.

?(The $108,000 annually) is not a conservative estimate,? he added. ?We don?t want any surprises.?

As part of the review, the council looked at what neighboring towns were spending on recreation programs.

The Marion school district and city contribute $44,000 annally to recreation programs.

?The city of Peabody invests over $60,000 and the city of Hillsboro invests over $80,000 a year, plus is supplemented with Tabor College recreational activities,? he said.

From that perspective, Holter said he believes Marion?s recreational activities have probably been under funding the recreation and parks program supported.

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