Monday, January 24, 2022

OPC Faces Tough Decisions on Budget Cuts, Programs, Staff

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Like most city departments, the Oxford Park Commission is waiting to see what its new “normal” might look like over the next year.

The OPC Board met via a teleconference call Wednesday to discuss the future of OPC programs and its budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

There will be no summer programs offered, OPC Director Seth Gaines said; however, day camps might be an exception.

“If the city allows, and the CDC allows larger groups, we will consider still having day camps,” Gaines said.

Most of OPC’s staff was furloughed last month when the city of Oxford furloughed 135 people due to projected lost sales tax revenue because of the COVID-19 crisis. Once OPC can start bringing back some staff members, Gaines said OPC will resume the spring programs at the point they were suspended.

“We still want to have a youth baseball and softball season, even if that means we have to push to the fall,” Gaines said. “I expect programming to look different for a while.”

Gaines told the Board that the city has directed departments to attempt to reduce their budgets by 20 percent. This year’s OPC budget was about $1.5 million with $1,125,000 being salaries and benefits.

“That leaves us with $350,000 in operating funds,” he said. “That doesn’t leave us with a lot to cut if we hope to bring back all of our staff eventually.”

Board member Missy Wilson said that if OPC was going to have to cut its budget, the board may have to make some tough decisions in regard to personnel.

“As much as I’d hate to see someone lose their job,” she said, “that is where we have to make the biggest cut.”

Gaines said about $200,000 is spent on part-time help to man both activity centers.

“That is significant and if we have to cut, that’s the first place I’d want to look at,” he said. “It might mean we have to eliminate some programs because we’d have to put some full-time staff on the floor at the activity centers.”

Gaines said the Board could eventually look at charging an entry fee into the activity center to make up for lost revenue, rather than cutting jobs.

“Starkville charges about $3 or $4 a person,” he said. “It’s not out of character for city recreational centers to charge people.”

Gaines also suggested that the Board could look at moving six staff members who occupy the office on South 15 Street into the two activity centers, which would cut operating costs.

The commission agreed to hold a work session in the near future to come up with different scenarios for its budget to present to city officials.