VALPARAISO | A higher property tax collection rate than the past several years combined with increased revenue from programs has the city's Parks Department finally seeing a bright light at the end of its fiscal tunnel.
Parks Director John Seibert told the city's Park Board last week the department is in the strongest financial position of the past three years. The recession along with assessment appeals and the start of the property tax caps had kept tax collections at about 88 percent of what was budgeted during those years.
Seibert said the first half property tax payment from the county was 47.5 percent of the total for the year with another payment due in December. If the second half is similar, the 95 percent collection would be the highest in several years.
The department will continue to underspend its budget by 10 to 12 percent, as it has been doing for the last several years and so far this year, just in case things don't turn out so well, he said. So far the department has spent about $90,000 less than it had through June of 2012.
At the same time, revenue is running almost $100,000 ahead of last year.
"If that continues, we will be back on track to a sound financial position, which has been our goal for the last several years," Seibert said.
Board Member E. Ric Frattacia said that was good news because "we've been watching every nickel for so long."
The board is in the midst of planning its budget for 2014, and Seibert said the board has been asked to plan 3 percent raises for employees but to hold all other costs to the same level as this year. The board is expected to approve the budget at its August meeting and send it to the council for final approval.