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November 12, 2013

City looks at fees for recreation programs

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The city’s Community Improvement Committee supports charging non-residents fees for recreational programs, the chairman said Monday night.

The amount and whether to move forward with a proposal for services from the Oneonta Family YMCA will be discussed at the CIC’s December meeting, according to Chairman Bob Brzozowski, Common Council member from the Seventh Ward.

The committee has requested that city administrators provide more specifics about fees, Brzozowski said, plus fiscal details on costs and savings to the city in scenarios of city management vs. administration by the YMCA.

At its meeting in Common Council Chambers on Monday night, committee members debated questions about changes in the municipal recreation program, particularly swimming.

Larry Malone, council member from the Second Ward, said the issues about fees and the YMCA proposal, need to be decided by the end of the year, and David Rissberger, Third Ward council member, agreed.

Frank Russo, executive director of the local YMCA, said told the committee that the organization is ready to partner with the city to find solutions. But the YMCA needs an answer by the end of the year to have time to plan and provide quality programming, he said.

Mayor Dick Miller has asked CIC and the Parks and Recreation Commission to review the YMCA proposal this and next month and advise the council in time to make a decision at the first Common Council meeting in January.

The city would pay the YMCA $65,000 for programming, including staff and supplies, for 2014, according to the proposal. The YMCA would seek additional revenue through application and nonresident fees. The city next year could save $31,500 or $47,800 depending on the option chosen, Miller said in a recent memo.

At Monday’s meeting, Michael Lynch, Fourth Ward council member, said the council this year needs to figure out about fees but doesn’t have to balance the 2014 budget on the swimming program.

But Miller warned not to understate the importance of budget factors and long-term impacts. The council now must review services to residents and nonresidents, personnel levels and other expenses in light of its five-year fiscal plan, he said.

“We cannot continue to do business as usual,” Miller said. “The council has got to decide how aggressive it’s going to be.”

The city has to provide police, fire and public works services but not recreational services, Miller said.

Lynch disagreed, saying the idea that recreational services aren’t a core program is “nonsense,” and the city’s programs are effective.

“We have an obligation to provide what we can — especially to children,” Lynch said.

City manager Michael Long said the YMCA proposal not only would save the city money but also would engage an organization that has expertise in providing recreation programs. Long will lay the proposed 2014 budget before council members today.

Malone, who said he understood that the four public-safety positions in the budget proposal would be maintained instead of cut, said he was ready to be aggressive about looking at fees and the recreational programming structure to find savings for the city and to pay for fire and police personnel.

“I’m looking for revenue,” Malone said.