District taxes could support city programs
By Angie Landsverk
The Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Waupaca School District are discussing the possibility of funding youth recreation programs district-wide.
“The conversation is preliminary,” said District Administrator Greg Nyen. “The budget for this year is set. We are in the very early stages of looking at which expenses are community-based expenses.”
Nyen and Carl Hayek, the district’s business manager, recently met with Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson, City Administrator Henry Veleker and Finance Director Kathy Kasza to discuss the idea.
Jenson initiated the discussion last spring when he was invited to a meet with the finalists for Waupaca’s district administrator position.
He asked Nyen about his familiarity with Fund 80.
Fund 80 is a community service fund school districts may use to account for such activities as adult education, community recreation programs, elderly food service programs, non-special education preschool, day care services and other programs that are not elementary or secondary educational programs, but have the main function of serving the community.
It is funded outside a district’s revenue limit cap. It generates its own tax, Nyen said.
“It had been misused in a number of districts,” he said. “The DPI (Department of Public Instruction) has put tight constrictions for legitimate uses for that fund.”
The Waupaca School District does not have a Fund 80 account.
“The school board has heard mention of the concept. There has been no formal discussion yet,” Nyen said. “It would have to be approved by the board as part of the next budget cycle.”
The board will begin talking about the district’s next budget in the spring.
If the board votes to establish the fund, it would then have to decide how much money to appropriate to it.
One reason why Jenson sees the idea as a possibility is because three towns outside the city of Waupaca are already contributing funds toward park and rec programs for youth.
They have been doing so for 20 years.
In 1996, an agreement between the city and towns of Dayton, Farmington and Waupaca began to help offset costs and support youth rec programs, Jenson said.
“In turn, they would be considered members and pay the same fee as city residents,” he said. “There were steady increases over the years with the last increase negotiated in 2004 for the 2005 season.”
During the last 11 years, the costs of offering programs for youth continued to increase, with city taxpayers taking on those additional costs, Jenson said.
“We felt the contributions needed to go up with the townships,” he said.
This past spring and summer, Jenson attended board meetings in those three towns to present information to them about 2015 youth program participation numbers.
He also proposed additional contributions from each township over the next three years to keep program costs down for town residents at around $35 per program.
Jenson’s report shows the number of youth participating in city rec programs increased 8.1 percent from 2014 to 2015.
A total of 1,953 participated in 2014, compared to 2,113 in 2015.
Of the 2,113 participants, 34.5 percent were city residents and 65.4 percent resided outside of the city.
Of that 65.4 percent figure, Farmington made up 25.9 percent of it, Dayton 17.8 percent and the town of Waupaca 8.7 percent.
The remaining percentage of that figure was made up of youth from other area municipalities that are not part of the youth agreement.
In 2015, the Parks and Recreation Department’s total operating budget was $973,301.
The towns of Farmington, Dayton and Waupaca contributed $111,347 or 11.4 percent of the total operating budget.
That was based on the agreement last updated in 2004 for 2005.
In 2015, Farmington thus contributed $57,091, Dayton contributed $38,286, and the town of Waupaca contributed $15,970.
The Parks and Recreation Department’s 2005 total operating budget was $716,968.
The contribution of the three towns made up 15.5 percent of that budget in 2005 and 19.9 percent of the youth program supporting lines.
The increase in the department’s budget over the last 10 years – much of what Jenson attributed to the addition of the rec center – was $256,333.
In comparing the budgets from 2005 and 2015 and the contributions of the city and three towns, Jenson found the city’s contribution increased from 84.5 percent in 2005 to 88.6 percent in 2015.
The percentage of money contributed to the budget by the three towns decreased for all three towns over that 10-year period.
Farmington’s percentage decreased 2.1 percent, Dayton’s 1.4 percent and the town of Waupaca’s 0.6 percent.
Since the contributions from the towns were 19.9 percent of the youth program supporting expenses in 2005 and those same contributions totaled 14.6 percent in 2016, Jenson recommended working back to that 19.9 percent support level.
He sought a three-year agreement with each town.
Dayton and Waupaca both approved a three-year agreement, although Jenson was told the town of Waupaca may have changed that during its budget discussion to make it a one-year agreement.
Farmington approved a one-year agreement.
In 2017, Dayton will contribute $42,347, Farmington will contribute $61,578, and Waupaca will contribute $18,263.
The amounts were to increase for each municipality in 2018 and 2019, with the towns then reaching the 19.9 percent support level in 2019.
“It has been successful for 20 years,” Jenson said of the agreement. “The sustainability of this agreement is in question.”
He said it is not inclusive to those living outside those three towns.
For example, the town of Lind has been approached about being part of the agreement but has opted not to.
If the school district were to decide to create a Fund 80, Jenson said the cost of youth programs would shift to the school portion of the tax bill.
It would allow students throughout the school district to access park and rec youth programs at the same cost, Nyen said.
“We are in the initial exploration phase, to determine which part of the costs could be appropriated for Fund 80,” he said. “From the district’s point of view, we want to be seen as a collaborative partner, putting the needs of the kids first.”