Thorns among the blooms at Rosehill?

By Rebecca Carr | Sep 15, 2010

We are pleased to see a much more realistic, scaled-down staffing model for the new Rosehill Community Center, one that includes a significantly smaller general fund transfer than previously proposed.

We support tax dollars subsidizing a community center when it also carries a good deal of its own weight. At first glance, this model appears to do so.

However, we’re still concerned with how the numbers are presented. Included in the revenue figures (the general fund transfer, while smaller, is also still listed as revenue) are projections for the picnic shelters and wedding circle rental fees, and rental fees for the lighthouse itself.

We’re fine with those figures being included in the recreation budget. However, the large, bold print headline at the top of the page clearly reads “Rosehill Projection Model.”

We would like to see Rosehill’s model standing on its own feet, and the monies from facilities elsewhere in town listed in a general recreation budget. The projected numbers aren’t a significant chunk of the potential revenue; however, Berner emphasized how much they’re expected to grow.

An even more important caveat is that staffing at the community center should not negatively impact crucial services such as public safety and transportation, or force furloughs or layoffs of current staff in other departments.

As we’re reminded every year when budget time rolls around – and more and more often lately, it’s marked by painful cuts – for every service increased or replaced, equivalent dollars must be taken out elsewhere.

Previous council discussions, including the ongoing series of how levels of service in each department affect the budget, hint at an especially tough budget cycle when the talks start next month.

Mayor Joe Marine assured the council Monday that he has no intention of laying off public safety employees to make room for new Rosehill staff. We strongly agree on that point.

However, his caveat: “We have to staff the community center. If layoffs happen (elsewhere), they aren’t necessarily related to the community center,” puts our radar on high alert. Voting on the two matters in separate meetings does not minimize their impact on one another. To imply otherwise is disingenuous at best.

Recreation is beneficial in many ways. It provides opportunities for fun, exercise and education for residents of all ages. It unites the community.

But that can’t come at the cost of important public services such as police and fire, transportation and road maintenance. Public Works director Larry Waters said just six days prior to Monday’s meeting that the city will have a hard enough time coming up with the $600,000 in annual street repair funds that the council called a reasonable standard during last year’s budget talks.

There are many aspects to a community center worthy of a reasonable share of our tax dollars each year.

But none of those come close to trumping the city’s most valuable asset: its employees. The most fancy facilities, stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, wouldn’t accomplish anything without the people whose hands do the heavy lifting and whose brains make it all happen.

And cutting loose loyal, established employees who have worked hard and have a solid record of positive reviews, just to hire newcomers elsewhere, is simply wrong.

We suggest holding off approving the Rosehill staffing model before the budget talks, and including it in the general budget Mayor Marine will present Monday, Oct. 18. That way, it’s included in the budget discussions and given equal shake with every other department fighting for limited dollars.

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