0516-NEWS-KEIZER-big-toy-LOGO

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

As was explained during the budget process, the City of Keizer is not paying for the Big Toy play structure project.

The problem is, wording in the approved 2014-15 fiscal year budget muddles the issue.

Early on, Keizer City Councilors approved using $100,000 in seed or plant money to get the project going. That money, from park System Development Charge (SDC) funds, is to pay for expenditures such as the $32,000 to project consultant Leathers and Associates.

Councilors also approved $150,000 in matching funds if a $150,000 grant had been secured earlier this year from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department through its Local Government Grant program. The project did not get funding through that grant, so the $150,000 in matching money is off the table.

Under the Park Improvement Fund heading in the budget, capital outlay is listed as $150,000 for grant expenditures (the aforementioned grant had the OPRD application been successful) and $300,000 for improvements, which includes the initial $100,000. A note at the bottom of the page includes this note: “Capital outlay expenditures are for the ‘Big Toy’ project at Keizer Rapids Park.”

On another page, there are again big numbers associated with the Park Improvement Fund and this note: “The 2014-15 ending fund balance is $265,000 less than the beginning fund balance. Available fund balance is being used for the Keizer Rapids Park ‘Big Toy’ which is a one-time capital expenditure.”

On the capital expenditures page of the budget, non-routine capital outlay includes $450,000 in the Park Improvement Fund for the Big Toy structure. That figure includes the $150,000 in grant matching funds.

Taking the wording at face value, it would seem to imply the city is putting in $300,000 in SDC funds to pay for the project.

That’s not exactly the case.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, said the intent behind the funding is to fill in any necessary gaps down the road.

“The reason we put that in there was it’s the proper thing to do to make sure the project gets completed,” Lawyer said. “Using that funding is the worst case scenario. That would be used if everything else – grants, fundraising, etc. – fell apart. It was done to make sure the project gets completed, no matter what.

“The fundraising effort is unknown,” Lawyer added. “It’s not anticipated the city will be spending that $300,000. That was the cleanest way to do it. I brought it up (during the budget process), because I wanted to be clear why it was there.”

Mayor Lore Christopher said last week the wording will be revised to make it clear the city will kick in the funding only if not enough money is raised through fundraising and grants, which she knows was the intent during discussion.

“But that’s not the way it is written,” she acknowledged. “The intent is correct. We said we would move forward and cover anything left. What it says (in the budget) is we would fund it. It’s the nuance in the wording that will prevent us from getting grants. Will have to change the way it’s put in the budget.”

Christopher is worried organizations could read the budget and figure the project doesn’t need funding since the city is putting in $300,000.

“That’s the issue,” she said. “If you’re going to an organization that gives grants, it’s highly competitive. The concern is because of our error, it can prevent the city from getting additional grants. It’s a guarantee that the city would spend up to $300,000 to help complete the project. Granting sources don’t want to give to projects that won’t be completed, so the city guaranteed the project.”

Hence the cleaning up.

“We’ll clarify that up to $300,000 is not set aside, but up to $300,000 is available to ensure the project is completed,” she said.

Lawyer said that was indeed the intent.

“The $300,000 is to ensure the project could be completed if there were no grants or fundraising done,” he said.