Monday, July 2, 2012

(Butte County) Grand Jury looks at Feather River Recreation and Park District

By MARY WESTON - Staff Writer
Posted: 06/30/2012 12:32:26 AM PDT

OROVILLE -- This year's Butte County Grand Jury report for the Feather River Recreation and Park District included recommendations for reining in finances, maintaining proper personnel records, getting expert advice, regaining public trust, and generally just getting along.

General Manager Scott Perkins thanked the jurors.

"We appreciate the Grand Jury's efforts, and the accommodations with our time schedule," Perkins said. "We are going to be putting together a response."

However, Perkins said the district has already taken action on most of the findings and recommendations in the report.

The report is pretty straight-forward. District debt and finances are the primary concern.

The district has moved forward by hiring Perkins, the report states. Since last year, he has taken a number of steps to improve operations, according to the report.

However, management needs further expertise and assistance, especially in the area of finance.

Board turmoil has been another ongoing problem the past years. A lack of trust, people finding fault instead of focusing on solutions, and the efforts to recall the board have not created a positive public perception, according to the report.

The jury findings state that the board and management have not given the proper priority to resolving the district's financial problems.

The jury recommended the No. 1 priority must be to address financial issues threatening the district's future.

Perkins said a committee with vice chairman TJ Jensen, director Chris Poblano and himself has been working with Rabobank to restructure the loan for the gymnastics center.

Perkins said the district has already cut expenses and generated more revenues to create a positive cash flow in the budget just approved in June. The budget estimates an overall 20 percent increase in programming revenues.

Staff is also working to expand child care programs.

The jury found district personnel records have not been properly maintained. It recommended the district seek professional help setting up and maintaining personnel records that comply with all state and federal laws.

Perkins said he has already brought a human resources consultant on board, and staff had previously been working on reorganizing the personnel files.

The jury also found board and management had lost support and trust of the people. And the contentious interaction at some board meetings between board members, management and some members of the public are detrimental to the district.

The jury recommended the board and management regain public trust by participating in a goals and objectives workshop, modeled after the city of Oroville workshop.

The report also found the cost of legal services had been high, but legal expenses had been driven up by "dysfunctional proceedings" that took place in the past.

"Citizens of the district should be aware that every time an inquiry or complaint is received, costs to the district to respond are incurred," the report states.

During investigations, the jury found no specific areas of concern for legal expenses.

Statements from legal counsel are properly documented for costs, the report states.

The report recommends the board and management review the best use of legal counsel with the available financial resources.

The jury found the district is working toward becoming transparent to the public by posting agenda packets and information, manuals and procedures on its website.

The jury found the policy and procedures manual had no job descriptions, and recommended the district establish employee and volunteer job descriptions and include them in the manual.

Perkins said the board and staff have been updating the manual and expected it to be finished by August.

The jury was also concerned that only one employee is fully trained in using the accounting system.

The report states that all employees and volunteers may be in contact with minors. The jury recommended the district adopt a policy that all volunteers, board members and employees be fingerprinted and background checked.

Lastly, the jury recommended the district adopt a plan to ensure continued compliance with ethics training requirements.

District debt and finances noted in 2011/2012 Butte County Grand Jury report:

* A $1 million line of credit from May 2006 that will be paid June 1, 2016. Revised to a $2 million line of credit in January 2007.

* A $500,000 10-year loan in May 2009 that matures in 2019. Payment — $15,500 per quarter.

* A $350,000 loan from city of Oroville taken August 2010 to buy the Oroville Gymnastics and Sports Academy. Payment — $3,712 per month.

* A $3.1 million loan to buy the gym taken August 2010, with 36 monthly payments of $23,260 starting September 2010, 83 monthly payments of $42,586 starting in September 2013, and a balloon payment of $444,163 due in August 2020.

* Revenues at the end of budget year in June 2010 were about $3.1 million with expenses of $1.9 million before the district bought the gym.

* Now, outstanding long-term liabilities are more than $4.5 million. The current budget estimates revenue and expenses for 2011/2012 to run about $3.2 million.

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