Property assessment shortfall leaves local Parks and Rec with big budget hole

Thursday, August 30, 2018 - 12:29
  • The Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation Department offices in downtown Eagle River. The department is facing a $500,000 shortfall, according to Parks and Recreation Director John Rodda. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Filling holes is part of what the Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation Department does.

But not holes this big.

“We found we are negative in our operating (budget),” parks manager Karen Richards told the Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors on Monday.

How negative? Richards and Anchorage Parks and Recreation Director John Rodda told the board the department’s budget shortfall for 2018 is nearly half a million dollars.

“It’s drastic,” Richards said.

Richards explained to the board that Municipality of Anchorage property assessments are “way down” from initial estimates, which caused the muni’s Office of Management of Budget to make the dramatic adjustment to the parks department’s budget.

“It was quite concerning,” Richards said.

On Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly will hear introduction of a resolution to transfer $488,000 from the Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation Service Area Fund to cover the difference. The funds are needed “to provide necessary funds to sustain department operations and services through Fiscal Year 2018 due to significant changes in 2018 assessed property values,” according to the resolution.

The department’s FY 2018 budget is about $4.1 million. Without the transfer, Rodda told the board the department cannot continue to operate.

“It’s the immediacy of the impact that has to be dealt with because it literally locks you up to operate,” Rodda said.

Richards said budget adjustments are not uncommon — last year’s was about $85,000, and this year she budgeted more than $150,000 in case of a shortfall in tax revenues. But $488,000 is far more than the department can make up with short-term cuts.

“We’re not equipped to take a half-million hit,” she said.

Rodda said the only silver lining is that the local parks department — which is funded through taxes on property within Chugiak-Eagle River — does have enough in its fund balance to continue operations.

“The good news is our service area stands alone,” he said.

However, the shortfall is likely to force the department to make cuts in its 2019 budget.

“We’ll have to look at our priorities,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]

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