Henderson is not planning to eliminate senior transportation to the Heritage Park Senior Facility, but the city wants to find a cheaper way to do business.
That was one of the messages Bob Murnane, director of the city’s Public Works and the Parks and Recreation departments, told the Parks and Recreation Board on Wednesday.
A Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee report recommended “eliminating” the senior transportation program, which costs the city $236,000 per year for 111 individual riders.
“This was a very harsh statement in itself, but it wasn’t done without a lot of thought, a lot of discussion,” Murnane said. “This is a very expensive service for us to provide. But there are people that this service means a whole lot to them.”
To prevent the program’s elimination, the city is talking to the Regional Transportation Commission and other transit companies to see whether they can provide the service or reduce the city’s service.
Murnane was discussing the ad hoc committee’s suggested cuts and recommendations for lower-cost alternatives to some city programs that are not considered core services.
The committee also recommended eliminating discounts for frequent users of city facilities, which would increase city revenue by $115,000. The city charges $145 for a 360-punch discount pass. Paying one-time user fees for the same number of visits to a city pool or exercise facility would cost $360.
Board Chairman David Crine said he is able to swim for 30 cents per visit using his city punch pass. “I understand that’s not a realistic fee nowadays,” Crine said. “I understand there’s some room for increases.”
Murnane said the punch pass program is “kind of antiquated.”
“That’s a really, really, really good value,” Murnane said. “But almost too good a value.”
The city operates and maintains 57 parks, 108 miles of trails, seven recreation centers, a bird viewing preserve, nine outdoor pools and four indoor pools. All this includes 1,202 acres of parks, open space, trails and civic grounds.
The department has a maintenance shortfall of $665,000, with $405,000 related to parks. It includes deferring some playground work and basketball court resurfacing and not updating some equipment.
The committee determined the city provides “premier services” but might not be “charging premier prices,” Murnane told the board. It recommended increasing Parks and Recreation Department pricing and rentals to $523,000, generating revenues through increased preschool pricing, higher charges for identification cards, higher aquatic facilities pricing and looking at SafeKey rates. The city also could look at cutting hours at some facilities.
Murnane said the city’s athletic fields are used by out-of-state teams drawn by the city’s “cheap hotels” and “cheap food and entertainment.”
“Should we be giving those facilities at anything less than a cost basis?” Murnane said. “And what is that cost basis? We don’t have a good sense of all these data points.”
The committee recommended a fee study “to identify what our market is … and what we should be charging.”
That study should go beyond comparisons with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County to include regional markets, Murnane said. The committee determined the department could come up with $2 million in additional revenue.
Crine expressed concern that some fee increases could hurt low- and fixed-income residents. Murnane cautioned that because the parks are a government service, “there is some things we should be charging a premium for, and there are things due to the public.”
Parks and Recreation accounts for 16.7 percent, or $36.6 million, of the city’s $219.1 million general fund budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. The money covers day-to-day expenses, according to the city. There are 200 full-time employees and 500 to 1,500 part-time seasonal employees.
The department saved $4.6 million between 2008 and 2013 by freezing, deferring or eliminating positions, and through operational efficiencies.
Murnane told the board that Parks and Recreation’s financial situation was “a small part of a very large discussion” the committee presented to the City Council. The biggest recommendation was a property tax increase of 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
The city manager’s office is reviewing the recommendations with the various city departments. City staff will return to the City Council with recommendations in coming months.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3882. Follow on Twitter @KnightlyGrind.