Apr 272017

City Park’s new South Course features several lagoons and historic oak trees that once lined the former City Park golf courses destroyed by Katrina (Claire Byun).

By Claire Byun

City Park has been running at a budget surplus for several months, but most of the excess stems from a state-mandated order against pay raises for the park’s staff.

Operating results for March exceeded the park’s budget by a little over $100,000. Revenues slightly exceeded what the park had planned, but the kicker comes from a major dip in expenses. Most of that stems from the park’s inability to give staff a yearly merit pay raise, which was mandated by the state legislature last year.

“There was money budgeted for a merit pay increase, if we were permitted to do so,” said City Park CEO Bob Becker. “And we were not permitted by the state.”

City Park’s Board of Directors held their monthly meeting Tuesday, and former board chair Susan Hess pointed out that the park’s expenses have been under budget over the past few months. That decline isn’t due to any trends, though there are money-saving systems in place to cut down on expenses, Becker said.

About $150,000 of the park’s annual budget was meant for merit pay, but now it’s classified as surplus. Park employees have not received a merit raise since 2014, Becker said, though they did get a one-time bonus last year.

“It was helpful doing that for the park’s budget but it was not helpful to our employees,” Becker said.

Larry Katz, board member, advised Becker to include the merit raise in their 2017-2018 budget – which has to be approved by the state – since there’s no real downside to including it.

If the state prevents another pay raise this year, Becker said the park will appeal that demand. City Park is almost entirely self-funded and does not receive money from the state’s general fund.

“The worst they can say is no, pull it out,” Katz said.

Since December, the park has been running more than $100,000 ahead of budget for its operations, but most of that surplus was offset by higher expenses. For the year to date, City Park is $210,000 ahead of plan for the first nine months of the year, according to park documents. Sales, catering and golf were all contributors to the park’s surplus.

Golf income was about $26,000 ahead of plan for March, documents show, though both revenues and expenses were less than budgeted. Catering and sales drew in almost $30,000 more than planned, since expenses were nearly $5,000 less than budgeted.

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