News Stories: Following are news stories that appeared in Cincinnati printed media, as the Hamilton County Park District leadership prepared for the 2016 tax levy. I give you the story titles, authors, and a summary of the issues I found in each. Copyright laws prevent me from posting full copies of the articles, but I do provide the links. I have made copies of all of the articles, in case one or more of them are taken down.
County parks district lays off longtime employees (Title)
Carrie Blackmore Smith, email@example.comPublished 6:30 p.m. ET Feb. 18, 2016 | Updated 10:57 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2016
"Five long-time employees who worked as middle and upper level managers at Great Parks of Hamilton County were dismissed from their jobs last week." First of all, I question if all or even any of these people were ever really fired. But let's assume they were . . . keep reading.
"The cut – roughly $667,000 per year for Great Parks – resulted in the elimination of seven positions including golf merchandise manager, park services director, naturalist manager, administrative operations superintendent, recreation district manager, deputy director and parks police sergeant." Note that funding cut of nearly $667,000. Also, pay very close attention to what positions were "allegedly" being cut! Keep reading . . .
"The elimination of positions was chosen based on which had "least impact on our park guests," Sutton said." LEAST IMPACT??? Go back and read that list of fired employees again . . . and why does he only care about least impact on guests? What about impact on wildlife and conservation? "Cutting these positions will save the park district $739,594 a year in salaries and benefits. Each of the employees had worked for the parks between 18 and 28 years. They were given two weeks pay and escorted out." Escorted out? Did they work in a high security research facility, or some other highly sensitive situation? Do you really think that happened, or is this just more blatant sensationalism? Keep reading . . .
"This had nothing to do with job performance," Sutton said. "It's hard on everyone ... but it does put us in good fiscal health. We are stable through the end of the life of this levy. We are leaner but we are in good position to serve the public this year." They were already stable, long before they "allegedly" laid anyone off. They ended 2015 with $11,702,515 in the bank. They then ended 2016, with $9,668,189 left over (before increased levy funds kicked in). Now tell me again why they had to "allegedly" lay off 5 essential top level employees because of a $667,000 cut in funds? Pathetic sensationalism used to deceive residents into passing the levy.
State audit: County parks a good deal for taxpayers(Title)
Carrie Blackmore Smith, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished 9:37 a.m. ET Feb. 25, 2016 | Updated 2:16 p.m. ET Feb. 25, 2016
"The audit found no examples that public property had been misspent or badly spent." Well, I've sure found a few!
"The review was made "primarily through the use of peer and benchmark comparisons," according to the audit, looking at operations in 2014 and the early part of 2015." Does this mean that only that time period was examined?
"The assessment was made prior to Great Parks laying off five middle- to upper-level managers in early February. That decision was necessary, Executive Director Jack Sutton said, in order to "put us in good fiscal health" through the end of the 15-year levy, which expires at the end of 2017." Back talking about this BS again!
Park leaders opt for 'conservative' levy(Title)
Carrie Blackmore Smith, email@example.com Published 7:01 p.m. ET July 26, 2016 | Updated 9:53 p.m. ET July 26, 2016
Let's jump right in and start right here . . . since when is a whopping 32.3% increase opting for "conservative"?
"This 1 mill levy would raise roughly $18.3 million a year for a park district that cost roughly $35.7 million to run in 2015." The $18.3 million figure is totally wrong. In 2015, the park district collected $17.4 million in tax revenue, so a 32.3% increase would put their tax revenue at approximately $23 million, a $5.6 million increase, and $4.7 million more than what the article claims.
"Parks leaders were considering much larger levy scenarios, including one that would have nearly doubled today's tax rate. But the commissioners said they realize the current climate for taxes won't support it." I'm sorry, but in my humble opinion, this is another sensationalist lie! They were considering an increase up to as much as 100%??? Yes that does make their 32.3% increase look conservative(not really though), but that is like the store that raises prices 200%, and then puts everything on sale for 50% off and still makes a higher profit.
'Noticeable' cuts a reality if parks levy doesn't increase(Title)
Carrie Blackmore Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org Published 6:11 p.m. ET April 21, 2016 | Updated 6:25 p.m. ET April 21, 2016
Levy pays for trails, parks, lakes and campgrounds. But are you willing to pay more?(Title)
Decision on levy is expected in April: Amanda Seitz, Paula Christian 6:00 AM, Feb 18, 2016 10:04 AM, Feb 19, 2016
Budget cuts don't deter County Parks' Jack Sutton(Title)
BY RICK BIRD - Cincy Magazine
"As the chief steward of 24 parks, eight golf courses and 50 miles of trails, Sutton has also fostered ambitious nature education and outreach programs for children and adults." 24 parks? Their website lists only 21, which is the same number he gave when I met with him on January 9th, 2018. Same number the auditors report gives. Has the number changed, or is this one of those subtle exaggerations?
" . . . fueled by new levies in 1988 and 2002." Interesting that the last two levies were 1. the year he first got hired by the district and 2. the year he took over as executive director? Not saying that this is bad, just interesting.
"Based on changes by the legislature, including a reduction in levy income, the park district faces a $10 million budget reduction over the next five years, according to Sutton. For 2012, its annual budget has been cut from $33 million to $30 million, causing a cutback in services with layoffs." "faces a $10 million budget reduction" ??? This article was published in September of 2012. 2012 ended (much like 2011) with revenue of $32.4 million. Over the next four years(leading up to the 2016 levy), revenue only decreased once, and that was only by $.8 million, while 2015 saw an increase over 2012 revenues of some $3.4 million! No decrease at all, unlike what was "predicted" in this article. So, either he was this far out of touch, or once again he was just blowing smoke. ??? Predicted $10 million decrease over 10 years . . . saw increase of over $3 million instead.
Also, let's look at the last sentence above that mentions budget cut from $33 million to $30 million. Revenue from 2011 to 2012 went from $31.9 million to $32.4 million . . . while expenditures from 2011 to 2012 went from $30.7 million to $29.8 million. So between 2011 and 2012, revenues went up while expenditures went down. Where is the $3 million cutback in services (with layoffs)???
"To help weather the storm" (???, what storm???)
"Sutton thinks LaRosa's input will keep the district focused on serving the public . . ." (what about wildlife and wildlife habitat???). "We're focused on guest services" (There it is, straight from the horse's mouth . . . again, what about wildlife, and wildlife habitat!!!!!!!).
Great Parks levy a good investment
Enquirer editorial boardPublished 9:48 a.m. ET Oct. 3, 2016