Enhanced recreation facilities, capital projects detailed in budget

The Village of Garden City’s Recreation Department budget for 2024-25, totaling $5.758 million in expenses, was approved along with the village budget at the April 1 Board of Trustees reorganization meeting.  

At the Board’s final budget work session, held Thursday March 28, Superintendent of the Recreation & Parks Department Paul Blake shared information on the purchases of equipment planned as capital projects, as well as the facilities needs that will be addressed in the coming years. 

The Rec. budget for 2024-25 increases 5% (going up to $5.758 million) with $3.829 million in salary-related expenses. 

There are 44 full-time village Recreation and Parks Department employees, and another 44 part-time employees budgeted within the department. Of the 44 full-timers, 37 of them work in the craft-related fields and just seven work on the administrative side.

The number of part-time employees hits its crest in summer months – about 80 part-timers will work at the Garden City Pool in summer, and another 35 are hired for increased parks maintenance, tasks, and responsibilities. Pool lifeguards represent a key set of Garden City Rec.’s seasonal hires.

Salary-related expenses rise with scheduled step increases plus the New York State-set minimum wage, up to $16 per hour, which adds to costs across the board.

“We have to compete in the workplace for our staff members, while trying to keep up with some of the larger municipalities and what they are paying,” Blake told the trustees. 

The ‘Other Expenses’ budget line for Recreation and Parks includes costs of equipment, special program services, uniforms, printing, postage and stationary. At the budget work session, Mr. Blake explained 

The annual revenues of the Recreation and Parks Department are expected to rise in FY 2024-25, as the forecast budget for the current fiscal year has revenues projected at $553,000. 

The estimate for more revenues comes from anticipated increases in fees collected for recreational programs, as well as fees for ‘other field rentals.’ Other facility rentals, the snack bar at Community Park and the renovated miniature golf course, ready for a full 2024 season, will also contribute to revenues.

Coinciding with the arrival of springtime sports seasons, Superintendent Blake announced that Garden City Recreation no longer rents out fields at the St. Paul’s complex to outside soccer and lacrosse groups that used the fields on weekends, as a concentrated effort to improve the conditions of the popular, village-owned natural grass playing fields.

“We have made a commitment to rent to our local groups and not to rent to outside groups unless it’s a really off hour that none of the local groups want. In an effort to increase the quality of the turf at St. Paul’s, we are no longer renting those fields to lacrosse and soccer tournaments that used to play there on weekends during the summer. It may be just five days’ long but it counts as five days to benefit the fields from not being used,” Mr. Blake explained. 

Capital projects planned

The capital projects outlook for the Recreation and Parks Department involves $402,000 of funding remaining for 11 current village projects. In the current fiscal year budget, $1.21 million was allocated to these projects, with the actual expenses, year-to-date as of March, at $574,000. Another $221,000 has been encumbered for the projects, with the largest component being $172,000 towards the facilities at St. Paul’s. 

Capital projects under Rec. and Parks include installations of safety playground surfaces in the village’s neighborhood parks. For the year-to-date cost, $198,000 was estimated with the approved budget calling for $211,000 in expenses; another $13,000 is in the remaining project budget. Blake noted that surfaces at Tullamore and Hemlock parks are on the schedule but Hemlock is the priority for the coming 12 months due to its current condition.

An increase to the budgeted money for Garden City’s tree management (trees on the village’s local streets and in parks) is filed within the a Rec. and Parks capital account, as the funding for tree replacement rose from $75,000 to $100,000. 

Mr. Blake told the trustees, “we are planting more trees than ever though tree costs have increased slightly, and we want to make sure we have that properly funded.”

The tree management program’s fiscal year budget included $158,000 with the year-to-date expense of $97,000 as of March, with another $46,000 remaining in the budget.

Another capital project has been celebrated in the village – the renovations of the miniature golf course at Community Park, which was highlighted with its soft reopening last fall, and the full season expected this year. The budget included $149,000 in capital, with the year-to-date actual cost of $116,000 and another $9,000 encumbered. Of the $24,000 remaining as the budgeted figure, Blake said most of that funding will probably be returned into village surplus. He adds that there could only be a few small draws left on the capital account to pay for some landscaping items on the course.

A park playground shade structure was installed last year at the St. Paul’s playground, protecting equipment and children playing there from harsh sun and hotter surfaces. The Rec. Department expects to install a structure at the Nassau Haven Park playground in FY 2024-25, as Blake shared that this playground has no substantial shade trees around it. 

The expense in the capital projects account is covered by $81,000, but according to Blake the shade structure project’s final cost should be closer to $60,000.

Athletic court renovations were budgeted at $120,000 for the fiscal year, with year-to-date actual costs of $56,000 and another $64,000 remaining on the capital project account. Tennis courts have been renovated at four village parks and the next one up will be Grove Park’s courts. “Once that project is complete we will be in good shape and won’t have to address the courts for several years,” Mr. Blake advised the board.

Funding is allocated in the capital projects account for the St. Paul’s Recreational facility, and expenses were previously drawn for some of the prior stabilization and repair work on the historic 1880s main building. As presented there is $299,000 in the budget and the actual year-to-date expense of $103,000. Another $172,000 has been encumbered, with $24,000 remaining in the capital project account.

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