Recreation commission turns deficit into surplus

Core Fitness was a contributing factor to the commission's deficit.
Core Fitness was a contributing factor to the commission's deficit.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — The Garden City Recreation Commission will end the year with a surplus of about $200,000.

That’s a significant turnaround from this time last year when the commission needed a $380,000 loan from the city to make ends meet.

“It was really a matter of can we bridge from December 2015 to January of 2016,” said City Manager Matt Allen. “Without that, they would have missed about four payrolls.”

The loan has since been paid back through property taxes the commission collects as well as selling off real estate.

Two of three houses were sold. They were technically owned by the city, but the commission had paid for them.

The plan was for the commission to eventually expand here, but with the budget deficit, the commission gave the houses to the city to sell and pay back the loan. One remains on the market.

But the question remains as to how the commission ended up in such a financial hole.

Commission chair Myca Bunch believes they tried to grow too fast. She points to major projects like taking on core fitness and the Big Pool, but the pool is now back under the city’s control.

“They were all great ideas,” said Bunch, “and they were services that were beneficial to the community, and a lot those, there are risks, and you just never know when you take on new ventures like that how it’s going to turn out.”

Bunch says early this year, an interim director eliminated every financial burden the commission didn’t need.

“There were some positions that were absorbed into others,” said Bunch, “and she’s got a great knack for that, and we utilized that. She’s really quite a bit the reason why we’re doing so well this year.”

Recreation Commission Superintendent Aaron Stewart said, “It’s not that we’re not hiring or downsizing, it’s people had voluntarily left and they just weren’t filled right away.”

Stewart expects some of those positions, like the Athletics Coordinator and Arts Coordinator, to be filled again by February.

He also says he and the board will develop new policies to determine how money is raised and spent.

“Part of what you’ll actually see from us is some fees are going to go up in order to help cover those revenue goals,” said Stewart.

Stewart says another reason for the deficit was high cost of the lease of the building that houses Core Fitness. He says they’ve re-negotiated the lease to save nearly 300,000 by 2023.