Bexley News

Recreation department incentives

Officials debate payouts for closing revenue gaps

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The city of Bexley is seeking public input about a pilot program that would offer financial incentives to Bexley Recreation and Parks employees who are exempt from overtime and to provide incentives for reducing the department's operating costs.

Bexley City Council will hold a public meeting about the incentive program before taking a vote after a third reading of the legislation May 27.

The incentive program was the topic of vigorous debate among council members at their April 22 meeting. Lori Ann Feibel, the chairwoman of council's recreation and parks committee, introduced the legislation that would create the incentive program. She said it would provide further motivation for Recreation and Parks employees to find creative ways to more efficiently deliver services.

"This program will give (Recreation Director) Mike Price a tool to encourage the growth of his department while striving to increase revenue," Feibel said.

The incentives would take the form of an annual payout that department employees would share based on how much revenue the department generates for the year.

The payout would be structured as follows: Employees would share in a $12,500 payout if the department's expenses were $150,000 over revenue for the year; a $13,750 payout for $125,000 over revenue; a $15,000 payout for $100,000 over revenue; a $16,250 payout for $75,000 over revenue; a $17,500 payout for $50,000 over revenue; and a $25,000 payout for if expenses were not over revenue at all.

Recreation supervisors would receive 22.22 percent of the annual payout and the recreation administrative assistant would receive 11.11 percent of the payout. The director of the department would not share in the payout.

Price noted the department has steadily increased revenue over the past several years while reducing expenses.

The department's expenses were $438,000 over its revenue in 2007. In 2013, the department's expenses were $96,000 over its revenue, according to the legislation.

"It's important to note that these savings have not been as a result of cutting programming and services, but rather it's been an effort ... to increase programming and be more efficient in doing so," Price said.

Councilman Tim Madison said he supports the concept of the incentive program, but believes a benchmark of expenses exceeding revenue by $125,000 would be a good starting point for the incentives to kick in.

"It seems to me like to incentivize (employees), it should be a different number," he said. "Essentially ... we're going to be giving them a bonus for not doing as well as bridging the gap last year."

Councilman Mark Masser said he does not support the incentive program and believes the city should instead take a comprehensive look at the salaries of city employees.

"My problem with this ... is fairness to all our employees," he said. "If we offer the (Recreation and Parks Department) incentives, what do we do with other departments and other department heads?"

Recreation Board chairwoman Cindy Phillips said the Recreation and Parks is in a unique situation compared to other city departments.

"There is a product that we are selling in our programming, and that is a little different from other parts of our city government," she said.

Councilwoman Deneese Owen questioned if the goal of breaking even on recreation programming is realistic since there are variables such as weather and construction projects at Jeffrey Mansion, where some programs are held, that are beyond the department's control.

"That's potentially problematic," she said.

Euclaire Avenue resident Don Lewis said the city should find alternatives to compensate Recreation and Parks Department employees other than the incentive program that is under consideration.

"Why not take them off that (overtime) exempt program and come up with a limited number of dollars and give it to Mike (Price) to use for overtime and once those dollars are gone, they're gone?" Lewis asked.

The public meeting about the incentive program will take place during council's meeting on May 27, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.

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