GN Park District gets $1.9 million budget boost

Evan Nemeroff

The Town of North Hempstead Tuesday approved the Great Neck Park District’s 2011 budget, which at $15,454,927 represents a $1.9 million increase over its 2010 budget,.

Great Neck Park District finance manager Stephen Kessler said the 14 percent increase in the district’s budget was a result of state- and federal-mandated benefits for full-time employees.

Kessler said the park district is responsible to pay for mandated benefits that have risen $390,000 from last year, including $210,000 for pension contribution, $124,000 for health insurance, $40,000 in Social Security taxes and $16,000 in miscellaneous costs.

The Great Neck Park District, Kessler said, has budgeted for 46 full-time employees in 2011 and that mandated contractual salaries and benefits make up 80 percent of the overall budget.

“We have no control on what the increase in state and federal benefits are,” Kessler said. “In 2009, the park district was able to consolidate two full-time management positions into one management position. The district was able to save approximately $85,000 on salary expense plus employee benefits and we are always looking to be cost effective in our operations.”

The increase will be shouldered by park district residents who will pay on average $29 more per household, Kessler said.

The district’s more than 30,000 park district residents will generate a tax levy of $11,247,010 – an 11 percent increase over 2010.

The park district serves all of Great Neck except the villages of Saddle Rock, Great Neck Estates, and Lake Success, and the neighborhoods of Harbor Hills and University Gardens. As a special district, the park district is under the supervision of the Town of North Hempstead and requires town approval for its budget.

Great Neck Park District Superintendent Leonard Celluro said the budget estimates more than $3.1 million in revenue to support the budget. Celluro estimates that the greatest revenue sources for the district include $722,600 for beach and pool fees, $630,000 from the skating rink, $552,156 from indoor tennis, $523,700 from recreation program fees and $309,500 for parking.

Celluro said the district is asking for a $20 increase for family membership to the Parkwood Pool complex.

Celluro said there is also $1.1 million in the fund balance, which was built up over several years by controlling expenditures and increasing revenues.

“The board has done an excellent job with this budget,” Celluro said. “They have made a conscious effort to continue providing excellent services and at the same time, keeping taxes down to our residents. It’s also important to keep cash in reserve in the fund balance to cover for any unanticipated emergencies.”

Celluro said he plans to have an advertising campaign to try to raise revenues for park district’s facilities including the Parkwood Pool complex, the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink and open houses.

“We need to make all of our facilities appealing to keep residents and guests interested in coming back to the park district on a continuing basis,” Celluro said.

Celluro said the board has not invested in capital items for the last two years during a bad economy, but the district can not delay work for a long period of time.

“The longer you go without fixing capital projects, it effects the infrastructure,” Celluro said. “It will end up being more expensive to repair in the long run.”

Celluro said the district’s special projects in the 2011 budget include changes to Ravine Park and Steppingstone Park. The district will spend $200,000 at Steppingstone Park to repair an existing house on the property and construct a maintenance building that will store heavy equipment including lawn mowers, grass cutters and snow plows that was previously left outside.

“We want to secure our investments on the big machinery to keep its depreciation value up,” Celluro said.

The district has also invested $130,000 into Ravine Park to install a new playground, remove the chain link fence and raise the canopy of trees to create more light to make the park more inviting.

Other capital projects that the district will work on include a sensory wall play unit for the Village Green PlayGarden, replacement of original air-conditioning units at Great Neck House and Parkwood indoor tennis courts and new soccer goals and a baseball backstop for Allenwood and Kings Point Parks.

The district is also in the process of receiving bids to plant about 50 to 60 new trees at the Village Green which will be covered by insurance. But the district will need to purchase a water tank trailer to irrigate the replacement trees.

Kessler said he does not believe the district’s 2012 budget will see a major increase like this year’s because it will not have as many capital special items.

“We don’t anticipate the magnitude of an increased budget next year like we had in 2011,” Kessler said. “We are conscious to keep operating at the highest level that the community wants and expects and will balance the two needs in our cost operations.”

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Evan Nemeroff

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