For the first time in several years, the Napoleon Parks and Recreation Department will be going into 2014 with a balanced budget.

For the first time in several years, the Napoleon Parks and Recreation Department will be going into 2014 with a balanced budget.

The result doesn’t come without some cost, including the loss of four part-time positions and the addition of participation fees, but Parks and Recreation Director Tony Cotter said this was a process that dates back to 2012.

“It really started in 2012 when the new mayor came in and pretty well spelled out what his thoughts were, and council seemed to be in agreement,” Cotter said. “We knew we had to get working on it. We knew to achieve that we needed to raise revenue and cut expenses.”

Another cost-saving move approved by the board was to eliminate subsidies to some non-city recreation programs, such as the Napoleon Aquatic Club, Pony League and ACME League baseball and LadyCat softball.

“Those subsidies (usually) ranged from $500 to $1,000 each and helped keep their cost down and the amount they charged for their participants lower,” Cotter said.

He said balancing the budget in recent years has been especially difficult due to poor weather conditions hindering play at the golf course and the fact it is impossible to make money at the municipal pool.

This year, with the added help of an advisory committee formed by local golfers, revenue at the golf course was up $27,000 from 2012 and $52,000 from 2011. Cotter said the advisory group helped to organize more events and market the course.

“I believe lowering the greens fees helped us receive more revenue in other areas, also, such as cart fees and beer sales,” Cotter said.

In past years, the parks and recreation department frequently had to ask for a subsidy from the city’s general fund to help it make its budget. Several years ago that subsidy was as high as $100,000, though in recent years it was lowered a great deal through steps taken by the parks and recreation board.

Cotter said the strategy was to look at the budget as a whole and not to try to make the golf course and pool self-sufficient.

The total budget amount for 2014 that will be presented to council in a couple of weeks will be $800,791. In 2013, the budgeted amount was $849,060. The part-time position cuts are estimated to save $60,000, while the revenue from participation fees is estimated at $20,000.

Board member Mike Saneholtz suggested at a meeting this week the board might want to consider raising fees for non-residents of Napoleon since they do not contribute to the recreation levy tax. Saneholtz added that even though the revenue from non-residents is relatively low at the pool and the golf course, he would still like to see those fees increased.

Board President Matt Hardy disagreed with this, and board member Chad Richardson pointed out the non-resident fee for a recreation program is currently 50 percent more than the resident rate. He said he was against any increase.

Hardy agreed, adding families already face many higher costs, including utilities and a potential increase from a school levy. He would prefer other means of revenue enhancements be pursued first.

The board voted not to raise any rates in 2014, with Saneholtz voting no.

E-mail comments to briank@northwestsignal.net .