Grants cut from Parks budget

A $50,000 grant for arts programming controlled by the Columbus Park Board has been removed from the 2016 Parks and Recreation department operating budget. It is a move that will force local arts organizations to look elsewhere for funds if the budget is approved.

The arts programming grant was added to the department’s budget in 2015, split into two parts — $35,000 in the Parks and Recreation budget, and $15,000 in the budget for The Commons.

Elimination of the grant funding was announced as part of the department’s Aug. 13 presentation of its 2016 operating budget and capital requests to the Park Board.

Parks and Recreation Director Mark Jones said about $34,000 of the grant money will stay within the department’s general fund, to be allocated for other uses.

“There will be other groups where organizations can apply for grant funding,” Jones said.

The department proposed a 2016 operating budget of $3,883,031, up nearly $50,000 (about 1.3 percent) from 2015.

Part of that increase comes from a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in employee wages, overtime pay, insurance benefits and other salary-related costs.

“That’s a recommendation from City Hall, and that’s typical,” Jones said.

The budget for general supplies increased by $2,500 in 2016. That money covers the cost of work the department plans to do at the Columbus Dog Park, as well as the cost of products the department needs to complete its regular maintenance work.

The department’s third category of money — which includes travel expenses, training costs, utilities, the grant money and other miscellaneous business expenses — is expected to be $1,000 less than this year.

Elimination of the arts programming grants will allow money to be spent on other needs, including $19,000 to treat an emerald ash borer problem in Columbus trees.

The 2016 operating budget was approved, but without the immediate support of park board vice president David Jones, who said he didn’t feel comfortable approving the funds without seeing a detailed comparison of the 2016 operating budget to monies spent in 2015.

But David Jones said he would be able to support the operating budget once he received the comparisons, and Mark Jones said David Jones received that information the next day.

The 2016 operating budget for The Commons, however, was unanimously approved for $904,602. The only changes to that budget were the 2 percent salary increases and the elimination of the $15,000 in arts grants.

The department also presented the board with nearly $1.5 million in capital requests for 2016. The request was unanimously approved, but with some concerns.

Mark Jones said he met with each of his department managers to create the list of capital requests for next year — 37, in all.

But board members said they wanted to know the department’s top 10 priority projects, a list Mark Jones said he couldn’t provide off the top of his head.

David Jones said he can’t fight for the department’s funding if he doesn’t know which projects are the most important.

“When we come to the budget approvals, if there’s a dollar amount they’re looking for, I can’t definitively sit in front of anyone who asks — the mayor, city council, anyone — and say, ‘No, we have to have a million dollars, we have to have $500,000, and this is why.’”

Mark Jones agreed to meet with his managers again to create a top 10 list for the board, a process he said he’s begun, but likely won’t finish until next month.

With the approval of the Park Board, the 2016 operating budgets and capital requests will be sent to the city council for review.

Operating budgets/capital request

Parks and Recreation department 2016 proposed operating budget

  • Personal services (salaries, insurance, etc.): $2,784,772
  • Supplies: $387,953
  • Other services and charges: $710,306
  • Total: $3,883,031

The Commons 2016 proposed operating budget

  • Personal services: $472,202
  • Supplies: $42,650
  • Other services and charges: $389,750
  • Total: $904,602

Parks and Recreation department 2016 capital requests

  • Projects: $750,600
  • Vehicles/equipment: $253,000
  • Annual projects: $455,300
  • Total: $1,458,900
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.