Mayor Bob Runde publishes a letter to Tega Cay Citizens in response to an outpour of emails about the Tega Cay Parks and Recreation funding.? Here is Mayor Bob Runde’s April 4, 2009 letter:
SPECIAL TEGA CAY MAYOR’S UPDATE
Recently, two residents sent e-mails to the community regarding their concerns pertaining to Park and Recreation in our city. Those e-mails have resulted in a deluge of e-mails to our Council members. On behalf of Council I am hereby responding to their e-mails.
RESPONSE TO E-MAILS OF MARCH 29 AND MARCH 30
Let me begin by thanking both of the residents who sent the e-mails for all of the volunteer work they have done for the city over the years.
Their efforts have been outstanding. Recently, the work completed at Runde Field was another great example of their commitment to our City.
I also want to say that I, personally, and my fellow Council members encourage citizen input and appreciate you making your opinions and concerns known.
That being said, I must say that I am extremely disappointed with the e-mails they have sent out since they have caused a lot of unnecessary concern among our citizens. The problem with their e-mails is that they were written based on emotion with no effort to check the facts in advance.
Had they taken the time to contact any one of our Council members, they would have realized what the facts really are and also understood the position of your representatives on Council as it relates to the money set aside for recreation.
Below, I have shown the various statements contained in their e-mails, followed in bold with Council’s response.
“In early 2008, City Council took $350,000 from the Gardendale development agreement, money that was designated for P&R, and applied those $ to partially finish the basement of the Glennon Community Center. City Council wouldn’t formally commit to repaying the money back to us,…”
Council has made it clear on several occasions that it intends to fully put back and designate those funds for Catawba Park. In fact, Council recently received $215,000 from Herman Stone, which has been put into a savings account specifically for Catawba Park. It should also be noted that Council took $320,000 not $350,000 as stated in the e-mail.
It should be noted that Council negotiated for the ten acres for Catawba Park as well as the $566,000 to be contributed by Drake Capital for the construction of the Park. In addition, Drake is responsible for building approximately $500,000 of walking trails and numerous pocket parks, all of which demonstrate Council’s commitment to Parks and Recreation in our City.
“Since then, Herman Stone with the Stonecrest development, has given the City $215,000 and City Council has a “gentleman’s agreement” with each other that it will be applied to P&R to begin to pay back the $350,000 – this agreement isn’t a commitment either.”
As stated above, Council instructed staff to put the money in a separate savings account specifically for Catawba Park. Council made a commitment. It should be noted that Herman Stone did not “give” the money to the city (the e-mail makes it sound like a donation), but rather was obligated to do so because Council required Herman Stone to provide land or it’s equivalent value as part of the Stonecrest development agreement. Had it not been for Council’s foresight and insistence, those funds would not have been paid to the City.
“So to put it all together – there is a budget shortfall of at least $320,000 and the City staff has been modeling a few scenarios to present to City Council this week. Two of the three scenarios right now include taking a portion of the $215,000 going to P&R to give to the budget shortfall.”
At the last Council Meeting on March 16, Council was unaware of any income shortfall in the current fiscal year budget. However, on March 17th and March 18th, Council was informed that Toll Brothers had pulled out of the Gardendale project and that Mercedes Homes
had filed bankruptcy. In addition, the County Auditors office called and said they had made billing mistakes resulting in a reduction of property tax income in the amount of $185,996. The above three items will result in reduced revenue of $321,852. The current budget has a contingency amount of $130,993, leaving a budget shortfall of $190,859.
Based on the above, City staff has been working on proposed budget amendments to bring the budget back in balance. Three scenarios were prepared, and each one proposed using some of the $215,000. They were e-mailed to each Council member. The majority of Council immediately made it clear to staff that using any of the $215,000 was unacceptable and staff and Council are looking at other alternatives to balancing the budget.
“In addition to the budget shortfall, the restaurant at the clubhouse wants to re-open. The mayor is adding $110,000 to the $320,000 to cover opening the restaurant again a couple of nights a week and Sunday brunch. TC’s Vintage Club and a few other groups (bridge clubs, Womens’
s Club, etc.) want the restaurant to open again.”
During January and early February, City Manager Grant Duffield, Councilman Les Conner and I met as a committee with every organized group we could identify in Tega Cay and discussed their past experiences with the clubhouse and what they would like to see changed for the future. Those concerns and desires were presented to Pinnacle and they were asked to present to Council what would be required to meet all of the desired objectives expressed by our citizens.
Pinnacle made their presentation to Council prior to the shortfall in income becoming known to Council. At that time, Council was concerned with the cost involved and no decision was made. Obviously, with the information now available to Council, an expenditure of $110,000 is not feasible unless the shortfall problem is resolved and additional funding is found. It should be noted that I do not have the authority to “add $110,000” for any purpose.
“I’m worried about 2 things – we won’t have enough money to get the 10 acres developed in time for the fall season and that City Council is constantly using monies intended for P&R as their play money.”
The P&R department is working on plans for the ten acres but has yet to present anything to City Council. It is my understanding that approximately 4.5 acres will be required for a Little League field, a soccer field and parking lot. The cost for these two fields and parking has yet to be determined. There is $461,000 available right now for this project. The only funds not yet repaid amount to $105,000.
Charlie Funderburk informs me that if the engineering plans are completed and bids sent out in the next few months, it may be feasible to have the fields ready for this fall. He estimates the cost at approximately $350,000, which is well within the funds currently available. The above may depend on the result of negotiations now under way with Duke Energy.
The statement that City Council is using P&R money as their play money is obviously not based on the actual facts.
“The $350,000 has not been repaid. This $215,000 will continue to be used by City Council until it’s gone – used for everything but P&R needs. And no commitment to replace it.”
Again, it was $320,000 not $350,000. All but $105,000 has been repaid.
The $215,000 is in a savings account reserved for Catawba Park.
“City Council doesn’t understand that the demographics of the city have changed and we’ll always be fighting for what we need for P&R.”
City Council is very aware of the growth in our P&R programs and addresses this issue every time we review the budget needs of our City.
Council identified the demographic changes we are now experiencing when Council approved the 2002 Comprehensive Plan and the ten year Park and Recreation update at that time. City Council is now in the process of reviewing the revised 10 year Parks and Recreation Master Plan. We are also very proud of the fact that Tega Cay, not the County, has addressed the recreation needs of this area and offers many more programs than our neighbors in the town of Fort Mill.
“It is absolutely not ok with me, nor anyone on our committee, nor Charlie or Joey, that any child gets turned away from the sport of his or her choice.”
Personally, it is not OK with me either. Over the past 37 years, I personally convinced the first developer to locate a ballfield within the city and not out along Gold Hill road where one was planned for years later. I have served on the P&R committee on two occasions and was Chairman prior to becoming Mayor. I and two other residents started the Tega Cay Youth League which provided for all baseball, softball and soccer programs in Tega Cay. Those programs were built on every child gets to play. I have also umpired for over 10 years and coached for 12 years. Over the years I have personally volunteered more hours to P&R than probably any other resident. I am very aware of the need to provide recreation for our children and adults and along with my fellow council members I am committed to providing the best possible facilities and programs.
“Next step – the City Council will call a special meeting this week to have the scenarios presented.”
Based on the majority of Council’s unwillingness to consider any scenario which uses the $215,000, there is no need for a special meeting. Council is pursuing other alternatives to resolving the income shortfall and will call a special meeting if necessary or address the issue at a regularly scheduled meeting when other viable options are identified.
“One other note – our P&R programming budget is basically zero sum – the only tax $ that go to P&R are for Charlie and Joey’s salaries.”
Simply not true. 36% of the P&R budget is tax money. The remainder is made up of registration fees and grant monies.
Keep in mind that all Capital expenditures to build new fields, parks, walking trails, etc., are not from registration fees. Funding comes from developers based on negotiations of Council which, in the case of Gardendale, represents well over $1,000,000 in capital funding for recreation, or grants sought after by staff and Council. In addition, funding can be provided through a bond referendum voted on by the residents, which would be funded by tax dollars.
“….the budget for Fall Festival is $35,000. Our concert budget is $12,000,…”
The budget for Fall Festival is $11,000 not $35,000. The budget for concerts is $15,000. Therefore the concerts have $4,000 more than the Fall Festival not $24,000 less as reported in one of the e-mails.
Thanks to the efforts of our Community Relations Committee, the City received a check for $38,500 from Piedmont Medical to be used for community functions. The contract with Piedmont suggests that $10,000 of the $38,500 be used for concerts. These monies are in addition to the current budget.
“The partial basement at the Glennon Center that was built using $350,000 of P&R money was built so that a couple of small groups of people would have someplace to meet once or twice a month. The squeaky wheel gets the most grease and all that.”
Again, $320,000 was borrowed not $350,000 and $215,000 has already been paid back. There are 21 groups representing hundreds of citizens that use the Community Center on a regular basis. These include our children in the girl and boy scouts, and many adult activities and craft programs. On most days, at least three groups use the facility. It is important to provide for ball fields and it is also important to provide a venue for other activities which a Community Center provides for, as we are working to accommodate all of the needs of the residents of our City.
In summary, I regret having to write this special update, but the misinformation sent to our residents by these two e-mails warranted my and Council’s response. Each member of Council would be happy to discuss this issue and any other concerns you may have. Please do not hesitate contacting us so that everyone can have the actual facts.Bob Runde Mayor