Meadville Area Recreation Complex is asking for a 6 percent increase in contributions from its municipal funders, including Meadville, but providing more money will be difficult for the city.

It’s contemplating a property tax hike of $87.50 on a home assessed at $25,000, the average for the city. The increase is needed to balance an $8.1 million budget that is about $490,000 out of balance.

The city’s proposed budget includes $127,760 for the complex, an increase of $7,232 from this year.

Balancing the complex’s 2006 budget without any major changes would require a 20 percent increase from Meadville and its other two municipal funders, Vernon and West Mead townships, according to the complex executive director, Mike Fisher. For the city, that would mean a $24,000 hike. Fisher has noted the complex isn’t asking for that.

He said the complex will have a $60,000 deficit going into 2006, double the normal carryover, and still has many difficult decisions ahead.

Complex board Chairman Joe McDougal said the 2006 budget as currently contemplated — which includes “significant” staffing and operations changes — would balance over two years.

Fisher said the $1 million budget is suffering from declining revenues and increasing utility prices; it’s projecting $145,000 in natural gas costs, roughly double that of this year.

Fisher said the complex is “trimming” staff, cutting cleaning and concession stand costs, turning back the heat and turning off parking lot lights. The 2006 budget includes no pay increases or capital surcharges. “We are trying to cut back in every way we can,” he said.

He said while the relatively warm fall has helped with heating costs, it’s hurting use of the ice arena.

Crawford Central School District is the complex’s largest user group, paying $230,000 this year for access. Fisher said when school district revenue is included, the complex generates 70 percent of its own revenue; the rest is made up of municipal contributions.

Meadville City Councilwom-an Jean Jones asked where the $7,000 increase request came from.

Fisher said that’s a 6 percent hike, the same that the school district agreed to in its 2005-2006 budget. McDougal said the complex will ask for the same increases from West Mead and Vernon townships. West Mead contributed $53,892 this year, and Vernon $50,536, Fisher said.

Fisher said he would get the budget to council for further review as soon as the complex board gives its approval.

Other departments discussed during the city budget review this week:

- Streets/parks, proposed at $1,612,543, up $60,034; 17.5 employees, down one from this year.

- General government, proposed at $1,604,962, down $19,372; 7.5 employees.



Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at gjohnson@meadvilletribune.com

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