‘It’s a great achievement’: Debt-free Park Board using reserves to balance budget with $3.3 million deficit

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QUINCY — The Quincy Park Board approved a Fiscal Year 2024 budget during its monthly meeting on Wednesday night that reflects a $3.3 million deficit — but taxpayers shouldn’t be alarmed. 

In fact, they should be impressed.

Before a vote was taken on the budget, Commissioner John Frankenhoff pointed out to the board and to the media that the Park District is debt-free, other than normal monthly bills. 

“For a governmental body to be able to say that it is extraordinary,” he said. “The credit for that and how we got to this point goes to Rome (Frericks, the Park District’s executive director) and the rest of staff doing a good job, day in and day out, living within our means. Previous commissioners, the current board, everybody. 

“The public deserves to know that the current condition of the department is that we have zero debt.”

Frankenhoff, the longest-serving commissioner, said he’s never seen the Park District in this kind of financial shape. Neither has Frericks.

“We have a heck of a team down here,” he said. “We run the Park District like a business, and we don’t spend money unless we have it. To be debt-free, with COVID and everything that we’ve gone through, we buckled down. It’s a great achievement.”

The budget for non-bond projects and operations approved has $10.1 million in expected revenues but a little more than $13.4 million in expenses. However, the Park District plans to spend $3,330,991 from cash reserves (representing 32.2 percent) to pay for capital projects. 

For example, the Quincy Park District’s corporate fund will spend $1.575 million on the irrigation system at Westview Golf Course, repairs to the parking lot at the Paul Dennis soccer fields complex and construction of a shelter and playground at Wavering Park. 

The Park Board also will issue general obligation bonds in early 2024 to help pay for other projects. 

“A lot of things fell into our lap this year,” Frericks said. “We put our (personal property replacement tax) money into our corporate fund, we have a (pending) grant with the Wavering Park restrooms (as part of the new shelter and playground), and we’re working on another tourism grant. Over the last two or three years, we stockpiled it all into credit. 

“We’re actually using the money that we’ve been gaining interest on in our checking account to pay for these future projects, but it’s all from reserves. Yes, we’re spending more than what we have, but it’s in our checkbook.”

Commissioners also voted to transfer $4,655 left over in the 2023 general obligation bond retirement fund to the 2024 general obligation retirement fund, and an estimated $20,000 from the 2019A trail bond to the capital projects trail development fund. The 2023 general obligation bond and the 2019A Trail Bond are paid in full.

Commissioners voted to pay $26,141.98 to Consolidated Fencing Inc. to install fencing for the newly turfed fields at the site of the former Wavering Pool. The two fields originally were built only for T-ball games, but the Park Board voted in September to approve a $566,091 bid from ATG Sports, a synthetic turf and sports stadium contractor from Festus, Mo., to install synthetic turf.

Director of Parks Matt Higley said changing the fencing could accommodate more age groups and allow for different age brackets to play on the fields. Both fields will get 18-foot backstops and 25-foot wingwalls at 10 feet in height. The south field’s outfield fence will be moved out to 170 feet in right field and moved out to 180 feet as space allows in left field.

Higley had budgeted $50,000 from the recreation budget to pay for the fencing.

“Would it be fair to say, compared to when you had an initial meeting with a contractor two or three months ago, that not only is this cost lower than what you expected but we’re also getting more done? Are we getting better than what we thought we were going to get?” Frankenhoff asked.

Higley and Frericks concurred.

Commissioners also voted to:

  • Annex property at 5100 Chestnut to the Quincy Park District. Frankenhoff said the property already has been annexed by the city. The vote allowed the Park District’s boundaries to match perfectly with the city’s.
  • Accept an agreement between Westview Golf Course and Refreshment Services Pepsi for a three-year contract for exclusive non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for Westview Golf Course. The total compensation for the partnership would be approximately $7,000 annually.
  • Give Frericks a 4.5 percent raise for a yearly salary of $99,275.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The restrooms for which the Park District has a pending grant were corrected from an earlier version of this story.

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