Ashland Parks Commission to consider $350,000 in budget cuts

The logo of the Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission.
July 12, 2022

Cutbacks could include stopping lease of Pioneer Hall, cuts to temporary staff and one parks maintenance position

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission could soon drop its lease with the city for Pioneer Hall as part of $350,000 in budget cuts being proposed to help balance the city’s structural deficit. The proposal is up for consideration at the commission’s regular meeting Wednesday, July 13.

Parks Director Michael Black recommended cutting an $18,500 lease paid to the city for use of Pioneer Hall, one full-time parks maintenance position, and more than half of temporary or seasonal positions, as well as putting himself on furlough for $11,000 in cost savings. The proposed cuts and furlough days are options for the commission to consider as part of a 10% cut recommended for city departments and APRC by Ashland City Manager Joe Lessard.

Black also identified cutting equipment replacement expenditures by 50% for one year since he said most equipment on hand is adequate to care for Ashland’s parks and land.

“We’re not anywhere near putting the money we need to into fleet replacement,” Black said. 

“We have 18 developed parks and we have 800 acres of land that we maintain and we have a lot of vehicles and a lot of equipment that’s used to maintain all of those acres. 

“I do think in the short term, we can put off purchasing vehicles and replacing equipment because the equipment is in such good shape and we have in the past been able to purchase equipment,” he added.

He’s also asking the deputy director to cut $25,000 out of multiple line items. He’s anticipating $57,500 in proposed cuts to materials and services in parks.

“Some of the major maintenance projects we would like to undertake in the next few years we we’re going to be putting off,” Black said. “It would be parks improvements, (replacing lines for) parks irrigation, parks general maintenance.”

Black said that the bulk of reductions, however, are going to be in personnel.

“There’s no way around that,” Black said.

During slower winter months, Parks has more temporary employees than needed, so he believes permanent employees can step in if needed.

“What I’m proposing here is that we cut the seasonals by about 52%,” Black said. “The reason why I’m proposing this is I have an option here: I can either do this or cut a tenth of employees, but that $82,000 will have to come from somewhere else and that would most likely be that it would come from a full-time position.”

Black said commissioners have about a month to take official action on the proposed cuts or to choose other cuts to make.

“But we do have to get them down to accounting as soon as possible,” Black said.

Commissioner Jim Lewis called the proposed options “a massive cut” but said he feels comfortable with those proposed. Lewis believes Black, as executive director who operates Parks on a daily basis, is best situated to make recommendations for cuts. 

“It’s going to be painful and affect our process so I don’t know that I could have any ideas that would be more helpful for what we’ve just been presented,” Lewis said. “Losing the temporaries, it seems kind of pretty sad and we get emails about people complaining about Parks maintenance.”

Parks Commissioner Jim Bachman said he agreed with Lewis that Black is “on top of” the day-to-day operations.

“I’m inclined to accept these recommendations,” Bachman said.

Parks Commissioner Leslie Eldredge asked if Black had any other suggested recommendations than what he is proposing.

“Sometimes it helps to have other possibilities that we could look at,” she said at a special meeting on July 6.

“The entire team is looking out for the best interest of Ashland Parks & Recreation,” Black said.

“Sometimes parks is a lot like housekeeping — no one notices unless you don’t do it … 

“We have had to make some cuts throughout the community that people have noticed.”

Black emphasized it’s not just parks that will have to make cuts.

“Everybody’s ending fund balance is being turned over to the city’s reserve fund,” Black said.

“So it’s not just Ashland Parks & Recreation … Parks & Recreation does have definitely the biggest budget cut of all the general fund.”

Parks Commission Chair Rick Landt said it’s likely the Commission will vote on proposed cuts at its regular business meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, which will be conducted electronically and carried live on RVTV.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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