Park Board budget stalls over park superintendent position

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

March 3, 2014

GREENVILLE – Members of the Greenville City Park Board met with Greenville City Council members Thursday evening to discuss the park’s budget for the year.

Currently, without any additional funding from the city, the parks would have enough funding to remain open until August, and the discussion was held in order to determine funding for the future.

The City Council Finance Committee has until March 31 to file their appropriations.

“City Council is in charge of the funds for the city, and we have to look at the entire picture of everything that has to be done in the city. We have to make our priorities,” said Greenville Finance Committee Chairman Tracy Tryon. “…One of our concerns was the wages being paid to the park employees, and the issue of full-time or part-time employment.”

Tryon also had qualms wiht the the past decision to hire Park Superintendent Deb Bergerformer as a full time city employee.

“We have yet to be convinced that the park superintendent is a full-time position,” he said. “No matter how you try to explain it, it’s not working out for us.”

Park Superintendent Deb Berger explained that she has been spending time to connect with the community and procuring additional financial support for the park.

“I’ve found out that the people, the businesses, in this community are very, very willing to help,” Berger stated. “It’s less money that has to be spent from our budget, and more things we can do with the park.”

Berger explained that she has been in contact with local garden clubs about furnishing flowers for the park and has found generous sponsors with the local businesses.

Park Board President Dale Musser said Berger is doing “more with less.”

“I’ll go back six or seven years, when we had a full-time superintendent and six or so full-time, union employees,” Musser said. “(Deb) has done more in 60 days than that group did in 90 to 120 days. That’s what I see. I watched that happen, and that seems pretty remarkable to me…That’s worth a lot.”

Tryon said he was happy to see more community service volunteers and the work that they’re doing, but he isn’t convinced that the park needs a full-time superintendent while the city is looking to conserve funds.

“We’re up here at the city building and have asked workers to cut their hours and do the same amount, if not more work. We’ve cut department employees to keep finances in check. We’re asking people to do more with less, and in our mind, we’re seeing you do a lot less with more,” Tryon stated. “Our priorities right now are police, fire and infrastructure.”

However, Musser countered by reminding the council that the park board cut the superintendent position by $25,000 five years ago, and today the position is $35,000 lower than it was.

“Our department, 10 years ago, had a budget of $1.3 million and 14 employees,” Musser said. “Today, we don’t have a budget, and we have one person. The help of the city, don’t get me wrong, is part of that. But where’s the math here? You’re saying we’re doing less with more…but I see we’re doing a heck of a lot more with less.”

Having been given a preliminary budget, the park board knew they needed to make decisions based on what they thought they would be appropriated. Park Board Member Tim Swensen felt that under Ohio Revised Code, they had the right to appropriate funding where they felt it was necessary, and so voted to approve a full-time position for park superintendent.

“In my mind, I thought, given that we’re given a budget that and do with how we see fit under reasonable intentions and so forth, that there was money to be had to fund this position that I think is important,” Swensen said. “I don’t know about a line being drawn in the sand, but we need to figure out whether we’re going to abide by [ORC] 75.09 or not?”

Ohio Revised Code, according to Swensen, states that the park board “shall fix the compensation and terms of service of such employees.”

“This is mandatory language,” Swensen argued. “We shall fix it. That’s the responsibility we have, and no one else has. And I still think there’s money here to do it.”

Ryan Delk, superintendent of the Greenville City Street Department, explained that the budget the Park Board had received was preliminary, and that changes could still occur based on a number of factors.

“…You may think there’s $200,000, but there’s not yet,” Tryon said. “Right now, the only monies we have for you, is the money carried over from last year, that legally we have to appropriate to the parks.”

The main concern with the budget was the position of park superintendent, Swensen said, noting that no other issues were addressed at any point.

“We never had a chance to discuss appropriations, our concerns, your concerns and then the final draft of what the appropriations would be,” Tryon commented. “We feel like you railroaded us, put us in a corner, and said you must do this without any discussion.”

Tryon noted that throughout the history of the park board, the council has had issues with budgets and out of control spending.

Swensen questioned how the call should be made.

“You can make the call on the position, but we’re going to make the call on the funding,” Tryon replied.

“I understand, so my concern is whether or not you are saying, basically, that the effect of ORC 75.09 is moot, because you control the purse strings over everything, and we’re not going to give you enough to fund that position you think is necessary, and at the level you want it funded,’” Swensen commented. “I think that’s a problem, I think that’s contrary to Ohio Revised Code…I get the history, but in the here and now, it’s not terribly relevant to what we’re doing, in terms of the tangible part of funding this position or not.”

No agreement was reached at Thursday’s meeting.

The Greenville Finance Committee has until March 31 to file appropriations.

“Obviously there’s a bit of a disagreement now, but we’ve got some very positive momentum going on with the park and the community,” Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers said. “Things are trending in a good, positive direction, so as these differences are maybe making themselves known, the suffering is going to be with the community, because I think we are taking a step backward.”