LIVERMORE — The Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD) reported they have maintained their budget despite a significant loss in revenue during the past year.
Jeffrey Schneider, the district’s administrative services manager, gave a general financial update during the board’s regular meeting on the Wednesday, March 31. Despite a tough year, he said the district is in the black.
“I think the interesting thing about our financials is how we are performing versus the prior year. And at this point in our fiscal year, we are still looking at a pre-COVID prior year,” Schneider said in an interview with The Independent. “What I think is telling is how successful the district has been in making some tough decisions and really reducing our spend without impacting the services we could provide the public.”
Schneider noted that the district is down $3.9 million in revenue from operations since shelter-in-place restrictions instituted last March limited offerings. Initially, the district tried to retain as many employees as it could, but as the pandemic stretched on indefinitely, Schneider admitted some tough decisions had to be made.
“We pulled back on things we would normally do, like cost-of-living adjustments, and we suspended step increases — where you work a year more and can move up a level in pay,” he said. “Then in September, we went to the board and effective in October, we did a reorganization and that resulted in 25 positions being reduced or eliminated across the organization, from administration all the way down.”
Overall, the district reduced personnel and expenses by $2.7 million. Schneider said the results he reported were being compared to a revised budget created midyear with six months of actual results from July through December 2020 and six months of projected results for January through June 2021 — since the district’s fiscal year runs July through June.
Just prior to the regular meeting, the district also held a special meeting to discuss capital improvement projects. Another effort to reduce spending resulted in the district slowing these projects. Currently, the board has approved two small projects in May Nissen Community Park, totaling $107,000. This is a large reduction from the average yearly budget of $1 million to $2.5 million. Any projects undertaken at this time will support outdoor fitness and other COVID-era friendly activities.
“We are trying to focus on things we think the public might want, like adult fitness stations, shade structures, pagodas (and) small projects that would add (recreation) capacity,” said Mat Fuzie, LARPD general manager. “We have learned this year that people are transitioning to outdoor exercises, like outdoor yoga, and public parks are the perfect place to do that.”
Fuzie said the district has set aside roughly $1 million in AB1600 funds, which come from developers’ fees. These funds can only be used to increase recreation capacity, and creative ideas, like free Wi-Fi in parks.
“I always want to point out our budget is in a good place in preparation for reopening resources to the public,” Fuzie added. “All of the neighborhood parks are open; it’s the indoor activities and services that aren’t open yet, but we are gearing up for that.”