Thursday, 26 April 2007 01:26

Amador County Recreation Agency Requests Increase In Funding: Takes Request On The Road To Jackson &

slide15 The Amador County Recreation Agency is once again raising funds to continue with the recreation build out in Amador County. Each year the agency relies heavily on local government agencies to finance the bulk of the annual budget. ACRA Executive Director Tracey Towner-Yep said during 2006-2007 member contributions came to $117,660 while the actual ACRA budget grew $220,000 a difference of $102,340 or 87%. Towner-Yep said as ACRA grows and becomes more self-sufficient, it is apparent that the base funding used to seed this operation needs to increase as well.  Although ACRA’s budget has more than doubled in size since 2004-2005, the member contributions have increased by only 8% per year, thus leaving a funding gap for the expanding agency and budget.

Towner-Yep explained that, “This year we are asking a 30% increase with a commitment of 3 years. A solid funding base, albeit small, is much easier to build financing with from year to year.” The fee which was previously $3.50 per person is proposed to be $5 per person for the next three years. Towner-Yep is taking her request on the road and approached the Jackson City Council on Monday night and the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. In a power point presentation to both entities Towner-Yep explained that ACRA is a collaborative process consisting of a Joint Powers Authority between the cities, county and ACUSD, and the only one of its kind in the state. She said ACRA has changed the face of recreation in Amador County by offering a variety of recreation classes, completed park upgrades, started a Youth Recreation Council called the Rec-ing Crew, completed a recreation master plan, and so much more. She said clearly with such progress it takes more people, more time and more resources.

slide18 Towner-Yep explained that while ACRA is working on becoming self reliant, they are not yet at that point and they need the joint powers help. She went over the budget from the previous year and also pointed out where the extra funds if approved would be allocated.  A large chunk of the funds would be used for salaries as the agency is expanding and more help is needed as they have been operating on “full time part- time people” or people who work even less than part time hours. For instance she said the maintenance man for the parks that they employ works 10 hours a week on Amador County’s 37 parks. “We need more hours just for safety if nothing else,” said Towner-Yep. Supervisor Louis Boitano called the understaffed scenario “ridiculous.” Salaries are not the only item the increased funds will be used for. “For your money you will get a more cohesive recreation, recreation crews, an increase in recreation maintenance and operations activities. We are not taking this money and putting it into cars or to vehicles or anything like that at this time,” she said.

Both the Jackson City Council and Board of Supervisors seemed wary however, as they feared the potential impact on their fiscal budgets. Supervisor Oneto mentioned specifically the amount that is proposed for salaries while Council woman Connie Gonsalves said she would prefer if they reviewed it on an annual basis and just can’t justify spending the money on recreation while city services such as police and fire are in need.  Towner-Yep offered the same explanation to both. She agreed with Gonsalves whole heartedly, but pointed out that any other county or entity with 37 parks operates on a budget of 1.3-2.3 million dollars a year while she pointed, “I operate with $117,000.” It was also pointed out at both meetings by both the public and local government officials that recreation may even make Amador County safer as often times children explain bad behavior on “being bored.” It was voiced that there is not much for juveniles to do in Amador County and that the recreation agency is doing the best they can to change that.

Supervisor Rich Escamilla commented that money may actually be saved as the money spent on recreation will deter kids from vandalizing Amador County. He said spending the money on ACRA is probably a lot cheaper in the long run than cleaning up graffiti and other destructive materials. Both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors supported Tracey in her efforts and commended her on the terrific job she has done in changing the face of recreation in the County.

Ultimately the Jackson City Council opted to approve the 30% raise making the fee $5 per person, however they only approved it for 2 years as they knew they could accommodate the request within their budget for the next two years, and requested ACRA to return to see if they could afford it for a 3rd year. The approved funding request amounts to $21,750, up from $15,015 in the previous fiscal year for Jackson.  The Board of Supervisors wanted to be fiscally safe and requested that the item return as CAO Terri Daly was going to investigate if the budget was able to accommodate the funding request as this year is “a tighter budget year,” explained Supervisor Forster. If the board decides to approve the request next week, their costs will raise from $75,255 to $109,765.  But as Towner-Yep would say, “Where else does one get such a bang for their buck?”