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Reprieve provides time to rethink rec

Staff writer

It’s all fun and games until somebody has to plan it.

Facing a shift in how it handles community recreation, Marion must decide whether it or the school district should assume responsibility.

Initially, USD 408 imposed a deadline of June 30, at which point the schools would cease to include rec director Margo Yates on their salary books. However, the district in recent days granted an extension of six months, agreeing to maintain Yates’ salary through 2015.

Marion City Council approved movement in the direction of a new city parks and recreation department, but with more time to study the situation, additional options are now on the table.

“The school is exploring possibilities of creating a rec program under USD 408,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “They made a decision to extend the current program through the calendar year, and that’s afforded us a little more time to explore more options.”

With recreation at a crossroads, the parties must decide whether to put recreation in the hands of the city or schools. The recreation commission could even conduct a special election and create its own tax base to draw money from, but Holter said that’s unlikely.

Holter researched many different communities when creating his plan for the city parks and recreation department. He need look no further than Marion County, however, to see a variety of programs.

Hillsboro runs its recreation department through the city, with money coming from a city tax levy. Peabody, conversely, puts recreation in the hands of its school district, which levies taxes from its base.

In its current form, Marion uses neither its school nor its city tax base to levy funds directly. Instead, an agreement between the schools and city has each appropriating general fund money toward recreation. The city provides $16,000; the schools, $8,000; the rest comes from program revenue and donations, recreation director Margo Yates said.

Marion’s total recreation budget is considerably lower than both Hillsboro’s and Peabody’s, and its recreational offerings are more focused on youth sports. Dependence on revenue influences Marion to emphasize programs that make money, while Peabody and Hillsboro can afford nonrevenue programs, such as yoga, karate, and drama camp in Hillsboro, and out-of-town day trips in Peabody.

Marion’s flagship programs are youth basketball and baseball leagues.

“Our primary programs are all for children,” Holter said. “We’ve received requests for young adults or parents to have more activities for them. Even senior citizens have asked for a few more rec activities.”

Because of the agreement between the schools and city, Marion has access to the facilities of both. The city of Peabody cooperates with the school district there to allow recreation commission activities at its parks.

For the city program in Hillsboro, recreation director Doug Sisk can use city facilities, such as the city sports complex, but requires special cooperation for use of school facilities. USD 410 allows the recreation department to use its high school weight room. A rec soccer program, staffed by Tabor College’s women’s soccer team, uses the college’s facilities.

Unless a new plan is forthcoming, Yates, who also works as secretary of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, would be offered the rec director position under the city’s plan before the position would be advertised to outside candidates. Yates has not said publicly whether she would accept the position, which would require her to step down from her role with the chamber and might result in a pay cut.

USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said the school board has not decided whether it would offer a director position to Yates if it were in charge of recreation.

“We haven’t been able to explore it to the extent where we can say anything about personnel,” Leiker said. “At this point it’s very surface-level discussions.”

A school-run recreation program has always been an option, Leiker said.

“We’re not looking to take over rec. The real thing is a change needed to be made,” he said. “Right now, we feel like more time is needed.”

Marion

Funding entity: City and school, though not via tax levy, and program revenues.

Director: Margo Yates.

Operating budget: $44,000.

Employees: Technically, 0.

Recreation board: Five members meet monthly, with a separate, seven-member baseball/softball commission.

Flagship activities: Youth basketball league, youth baseball leagues, family bingo night.

Facilities: Sports and Aquatic Center, baseball/softball complex, Central Park, East Park, school gymnasiums.

Hillsboro

Funding entity: City tax levy.

Director: Doug Sisk.

Operating budget: $70,000 (Sisk said a typical year is $50,000).

Employees: One full-time (Sisk), one to six part-timers, depending on the season.

Recreation board: Five members meet monthly.

Flagship activities: Youth basketball league, youth baseball leagues, drama camp, martial arts, yoga.

Facilities: City sports complex (three softball fields, three soccer fields, eight tennis courts), baseball field, Hillsboro High School weight room, Tabor soccer fields, Tabor basketball gymnasium.

Peabody

Funding entity: USD 397 tax levy.

Director: Russ Busenitz.

Operating budget: $60,000.

Employees: One permanent part-time (Busenitz), with two additional part-time aides in summer.

Recreation board: Four members meet monthly.

Flagship activities: Youth basketball league, youth baseball league, youth flag football, out-of-town day trips, open gyms, free swim days.

Facilities: School gymnasiums, city baseball diamonds, elementary school soccer goals, city park.

Last modified June 4, 2015

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