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Foothills must restore financial security
After reading the executive director of the Foothills Park & Recreation District’s letter to the community, I was reminded of the Latin proverb “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” How ironic that the district has now chosen to acknowledge that “financial challenges the district has been facing since 2008 after a failed mill-levy election” resulted in last year’s cancellation of the Red, White & You event, and “… in these hard economic times the district could not continue to financially support the price tag a free event like this costs.”
Certainly the cost of this community event is significant and the shared approach to finance it makes sense. What does not make sense is the poor judgment exercised by the district and its board of directors when dealing with increases in compensation. Had the district and its board been willing to follow the compensation path the majority of its mill-levy-paying households are enduring, Foothills would be in a better financial position. Instead, the district and its board have opted to increase compensation for each year since 2008. Their attitudes and actions reek of self entitlement at the expense of Foothills mill-levy-paying residents.
Why does the district continue to fund compensation increases when they are clearly not the highest priority? Just because there is a line item in the district’s budget for increases in compensation, or that there are savings resulting from staffing reductions or efficiencies, does not justify entitlement to spending, especially when facing serious financial shortfalls. Published minutes of the district’s meetings repeatedly document the district does not have the necessary funding to meet capital equipment replacements or repairs. The district uses the term’s “emergency situation” and “putting band-aids on capital expenditures” to describe the critical nature of the situation.
Yet when speaking to the most recent compensation increases, board member Nunes stated she could not “fathom giving all employees a raise and not giving upper management a raise.” And the executive director himself stated, “Unfortunately, with the tens of millions of dollars of need that we have with the capital equipment and capital repairs, we can’t even begin to touch those items.” So rather than save for a rainy day, the executive director and the board approved compensation increases, and by their actions sent the message to all Foothills residents that increases in compensation were more important than saving precious funds. The actions and words of the district and the board when dealing with increases in compensation indicate they do not have the leadership, skill, ability or desire to take even the smallest steps to restore Foothills to financial security.
What legacy to the Foothills will current members of the board leave when they move on? More of the district’s budget going to compensation expenses, or taking the hard steps needed to return Foothills to financial health? The district and its board should be following the “penny-saved/penny-earned” approach if they expect the support of district residents. It is clear the gift Foothills is bearing is not just Red, White & You; it is another mill-levy increase election in the near future to continue funding compensation increases.
Kris Mikkelson