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Wass Proposes Formal Cost-Saving Goal for Park District

The Oswegoland Park District board member suggested a target of 20 percent in cost reductions, but other board members disagreed, saying staff is already working to cut expenses.

Should the Oswegoland Park District set a formal goal for spending cuts, and stick to it?

That’s the question raised by Board Member Len Wass last week, during the park district board’s regular meeting. And though other board members did not take to the idea, saying the district is already holding the line on costs where it can, Wass still believes it’s a good one.

Even though the district kept the tax levy the same in 2012 as it was in 2011, Wass said, the district’s portion of his tax bill went up. That, he said, is due to a declining tax base, and the only way to combat that is to trim spending.

So Wass proposed passing a board resolution to set a goal of reducing district expenses by 20 percent. It is the second time he has proposed a formal cost reduction goal – the first time, during a board finance committee meeting, he suggested a 10 percent goal.

Board members Roy White and Danielle Ebersole responded with examples of ways the district is already lowering costs. White mentioned recent cuts at Fox Bend Golf Course that could save $300,000, and Ebersole noted that the district has seen long-standing employees retire, with no replacements planned.

“We really are working on lowering our costs,” Ebersole said. “We continue to strive to do that.”

But Wass, citing his experience as a management consultant and CEO, compared the district’s current efforts to “finding a couple of elephants,” when he said the real cost reductions would come from “a whole pile of rabbits” – smaller expenses that add up.

Acting Executive Director Rich Zielke said at the meeting that when staff receives the budget, they don’t consider it as an open checkbook – they work to come in under the approved amounts. Ebersole said the district’s work to reduce expenses is nothing new, and staff does not need board micromanagement.

“You don’t have to come across like you’re the savior, here to save everyone,” she said. “This has been going on for three to four years. Let the department heads figure out how to lower costs.”

None of this persuaded Wass, who said, “It seems to me that this board is happy with the expenses and the tax consequences.”

That comment incensed White, who retorted, “Don’t say that. Where are you? What have you come up with? What ideas?” Earlier in the meeting, he accused Wass of not having suggested anything concrete.

Wass later argued that he had made suggestions, and in fact had made one earlier in the same meeting – he motioned to request proposals from other law firms, rather than re-upping with the district’s current attorneys at Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Roleck.

That motion died without a second, and the board voted 4-1 to approve another contract with the district’s current attorneys. The board first voted to retain Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Roleck in October 2005, and has remained with them ever since.

Board President Bob Mattingly said he does not feel comfortable putting a target number to the cost-saving efforts, but he believes the district staff is working hard to keep expenses in line.

“We’ve given that direction to staff, and they hear it loud and clear,” he said.

Greg Nelson June 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Wow for some reason all sides are saying that a law broken is just that a law broken but okay? Many are saying watch what we spend and that can only be a good thing. I think a board should always hold staff to account for every penny spent, always! The issue is that Mr Wass is the only voice to speak out load so we can hear him. Why aren't the other members doing the same? Do they think everything is okay at 5% of a tax bill or did I miss something? The board is there to direct the staff with goals and one member is asking to save 20% why not try. Just think if a little effort was placed on the savings how bright the future would be. One other note just think if we did save that 20% others would flock to the area because why people....we would be the best at saving money and that drives home sales more then having 20 baseball diamonds in use. In these tough times people need to make cuts. If times change so can spending but all taxing bodies must cut to allow the residents time to recover ! !
William Gutierrez June 01, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Greg suggested that the park district be self supported by user fees. This isn't a new idea. There are parks and programs that are largely self-supporting. Just type in "self-supporting parks" into Google.
Momof3 June 01, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Have any of you done the research on what exactly your park district taxes are being used for? Some might be surprised to find out just how much of the PD's expenses ARE funded by user fees and grants. Just saying don't relie on the word of others. Do some fact checking for yourself.
Loreta J. June 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I can't tell you the number of times we have tried to register for a park district program and had to put on a waiting list because the class or sport was filled..that is great news that people are using these programs and opportunities. I believe at one time there were over 700 kids in the soccer program...700 kids who get out and practice and participate and stay active, make friends, etc...same with the swimming lessons, and other activities. They are not cheap...going up every year, but such a huge impact on the community.
William Gutierrez June 01, 2012 at 11:52 PM
I wonder where the money for grants comes from? I'm going to take a wild guess and say that grants are funded by TAXES. So the money isn't free. It's great that they get grants but that money has to come from somewhere. So I would careful in thinking that grant money is somehow not connected to TAXES.

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