by A.C. Hall
The White Settlement Economic Development Corporation met on Thursday to begin early discussions about their budget for 2012-2013. City Manager Linda Ryan was on hand presenting the proposed budget to the EDC members, though she cautioned that it was still early in the process.
“They’re not set in stone yet,” Ryan said of the numbers in the budget.
The estimated revenues for next year’s budget from sales tax sit at $1.5 million, which is up $300,000 from the 2011-2012 budget’s number. According to the proposed budget, sales tax is up twenty percent in White Settlement, which is in part what led to the higher estimate on sales tax revenue.
“We are doing well guys, financially,” EDC Director Jim Ryan said.
There was some discussion over the lengthy Lockheed strike and the effect that might have had on the local economy. While confirming that some local businesses did feel the effects of the strike, Ryan said that the loss of sales tax was factored into the budget and the estimated sales tax revenue might have been even higher than $1.5 million if it hadn’t been for the strike.
Another aspect of the budget that was highlighted early in the discussions was the fact that as it currently stands, it will end the year $114,516 in the black. That would be in addition to the between $800,000 and $1 million that the EDC will start this budget year with.
Board member Alan Price spoke about how some people have spread rumors that the EDC is broke. Mayor Jerry Burns responded to this.
“You get to tell them that this year we’ll have a positive fund balance,” Burns said.
The budget does include a $280,000 debt payment to the White Settlement General Fund. This is the first payment to cover the $1.4 million dollars that the general fund loaned to the EDC for the comprehensive Central Park overhaul that is currently underway.
When asked how the Central Park work will impact next year’s budget, Linda Ryan had encouraging news.
“We look for everything to be finished by October on Central Park,” Ryan said.
Income from concessions was also discussed, with Parks and Recreation Director Rich Tharp saying that they currently take twenty-six percent of the concession money from Veterans Park, after sales tax.
This was part of a discussion about how the concessions were going to be handled at the new Central Park. Currently, the White Settlement Youth Association runs those concessions and keeps the money. “That’s where they make their money,” Jim Ryan said.
It’s unclear if that is how things are going to continue to be done at the revamped park. “It was never really part of the negotiations with the youth leagues,” Jim Ryan stated.
The youth associations have indicated a willingness to talk about the way concessions are handled, but those talks have not happened yet.
Also on the subject of Central Park, an attempt will be made to have the football field area of the park tended to first so it could possibly be ready in time for the youth football season. The possibility of opening up the back gate to central park to allow access just to that area was mentioned.
Linda Ryan said that detailed salary numbers and insurance numbers aren’t available yet, but she did mention that the budget did have one new employee added in. This is a position that was frozen two years ago.
Board member Pat Wirsing voiced concern over this, asking why EDC is paying parks employees when Central Park isn’t even open right now. Tharp spoke about the many things going on at the other parks, and it was also mentioned that upon re-opening, Central Park will have even more fields for Tharp’s crew to take care of than it did previously.
“Our fields don’t sit idle very much,” Mayor Burns said, speaking about the many events and things that go on in the parks.
Price asked if there are going to be any security cameras at Central Park.
“I truly believe that the park is going to need some security,” Price said.
He spoke of vandalism problems from the past while voicing his concern that the even nicer new park will be targeted for vandalism. Linda Ryan pointed to $50,000 that is in the budget for “other professional services” as a place that could be looked to if the board was interested in cameras.
Another board member asked why the city pays the sanction fees for umpires who work in the city, saying the umpires should pay that themselves. Tharp explained the new approach that the city has undergone in how umpires are paid.
“We’re kind of out on a limb right now,” Tharp said.
He said that the league fees were lessened and in return the teams who play games pay the umpires in cash before each game. Mayor Burns got involved in this discussion, talking about the potential for the revamped Central Park to draw in more and bigger tournaments.
“You build it, they will come,” Burns said.
The Mayor did acknowledge that there would be some bumps in the road as they adjust to how to best use the new park.
“There’s going to be growing pains,” Mayor Burns said.
Continuing the discussion of parks related expenditures, Linda Ryan said that even though Tharp didn’t ask for it, she put $18,000 into the budget for a new parks utility vehicle.
“It might make it easier in the parks,” Linda Ryan said.
She also said that there was $25,000 budgeted for park improvements.
“If there’s something you really want done, this is where it could be done,” Linda Ryan said.
Jim Ryan also spoke to this item, saying that if any board member felt that the new Central Park or one of the other parks was lacking something such as enough picnic tables, this is a budget item they could use to make minor improvements.
One item that was approved several months ago that has finally moving forward is the purchase of a house by the EDC on Wilbur. The house is near Saddle Hills Park and will be used as a new Parks building.
“They lost their building in Central Park,” Linda Ryan said.
This house will double as both a storage area for parks supplies as well as a place for parks employees to clock in. The possibility of setting up a break room where they could eat lunch was also discussed. Tharp’s office will remain in the Animal Control building by the post office.
Bike paths and walking trails were another item mentioned. Jim Ryan said that this is something that has been emphasized lately and could be done at reasonable prices.
“These bike paths are pretty cheap,” Jim Ryan said.
He estimated around ten to fifteen thousand dollars could bring in bike paths running along Las Vegas trail and linking Central and Veterans Parks. A way of bringing bike paths and walking trails over near the base was also mentioned.
Other items that are a part of this early budget are $105,000 for the BIG grant program. That’s enough for three maximum amount BIG grants, which are awarded to local companies that do upgrades to the functional and visual aspects of their businesses. There’s also still $100,000 in the budget for small business grants. This amount was in last year’s budget as well but went untouched, as no plan has been put together as to how to utilize the money. Jim Ryan mentioned the need for a workshop to put that program into action.
$25,000 is in the budget for signage. This could include another entry sign, this one over in the Ridgmar area. It would also cover other signage that may need to be put up over the year.
One thing touched upon during the talks was the advantage of putting some money into these items, as it made it easier to do things later in the year if there was at least some amount dedicated to it in the budget.
“Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” Jim Ryan stated.
He also reiterated that even budgeted items still came before the EDC for a vote before the money was spent. At the close of the meeting, Linda Ryan spoke about her serious approach to the budget.
“I promise not to let you go in the red,” Linda Ryan told the EDC.
She said that if revenues are lagging in the new year she’ll look to lessen spending to compensate.
Mayor Burns also had some closing words as he expressed his gratitude to the EDC for their efforts in making the Central Park overhaul happen. He said that they may come under fire for taking part in passing the project, but that what they did took courage.
“Be proud of it,” Mayor Burns said. “I’m very proud of y’all.”
Board members were asked to look over the budget and to bring any questions or concerns they have to their July meeting. At that time they will call a public hearing on the budget for their August meeting, where they’ll look to adopt the budget.