The Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department is at a crossroads.
The department’s expenditures have exceeded its revenue by at least $300,000 during both of the last two years.
With a cash-strapped budget, director Jim Rodems said the Lodi City Council has two options: make cuts or accept deficits.
Rodems said the city can make deep cuts to services in a variety of ways, like limiting park maintenance, temporarily closing parks or reducing aquatic activities.
The other option is to accept that the costs of the department are going to exceed what is budgeted.
“We’ve exhausted as much as we can with what we have right now; everything else needs to come from outside the department,” he said.
Rodems discussed where the department is currently and some of the challenges ahead during a council shirtsleeves meeting on Tuesday.
The department oversees recreation programs, the maintenance of the parks and managing Hutchins Street Square.
Revenue sources for the department include $1.8 million in revenue and $3.29 million in General Fund money. The General Fund supports a majority of city services, like police, fire and the Lodi Public Library.
But even with reductions, the department’s expenses exceeded the revenue by $300,000 for the second time in two years.
The council could change their expectations for how much the department’s programs will likely make and find a way to absorb the rising costs, Rodems said.
If not, he said, the department will look at options on how to reduce expenses, and everything is on the table.
Some ideas include contracting out some levels of park maintenance, significantly reducing the maintenance level at parks, or closing parks.
More drastic measures could include contracting or eliminating the aquatics program or eliminating the senior information and referral program, although Rodems said he would like to see both programs stay.
Rodems said they are also turning to the community for support through an Adopt-a-Park program and tree donation.
Councilman Larry Hansen, who is the city’s former police chief, said it is important for the council to weigh the options because having good parks and recreation programs keeps kids in the community busy.
“I don’t want us to become a community that can only fund the police,” he said.
The department has already made a variety of changes to reduce the gap between money coming in and going out.
They reduced a full-time aquatics coordinator to part-time for a savings of $35,000, and reduced a full-time office staff position for a savings of $48,000. They consolidated three positions into one for a savings for $72,000, and are considering reducing an art specialty classes coordinator from full-time to part-time.
Registration fees have also increased. All Lodi BOBS programs increased by $5, for a total of $35,000. All other program fees had a 4 to 5 percent increase, for additional revenue of $28,000.
Also, earlier this year, the city combined park services and recreation programs with the management of Hutchins Street Square into one fund.
Rodems said that has led to better management of the department’s finances, and it was within 1 percent of the estimated budget.
The council also discussed ways the department is getting the community involved. One is the program to donate trees in honor or memory of a person, which Parks Superintendent Steve Dutra said has resulted in the city not having to buy a tree in the last 30 years.
The city is also starting an Adopt-a-Park program where a local club or organization can volunteer to clean up a park once a week or twice a month. Tasks would include raking, picking up litter and cleaning up bathrooms.
In the past, volunteer groups have done projects that the city would not have the funds or manpower to do, like cleaning up the Fibar chips on a playground or cleaning the Lodi Lake Nature Area, City Manager Rad Bartlam said.
“It is not so much a reduction in our costs, but an increased level of maintenance at our park facilities,” Bartlam said.