Great Neck Park District budget approved by commissioners

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Great Neck Park District Superintendent Jason Marra presents highlights of the 2018 proposed budget and district's accomplishments to attendees. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck Park District’s board of commissioners approved a roughly $19 million budget on Thursday night, which featured a 1 percent increase in expenses and 2.4 percent rise in revenue.

Park district officials described the budget as bold, but careful with taxpayer money, as well as one pursuant to the institution’s three core missions of parks, recreation and conservation.

“We’re very careful about those funds and we spend a lot of time just trying to figure out the best way to get the money, to pay for the expenses and the new programs and the old programs that we do,” Daniel Nachmanoff, a parks commissioner, said at the public hearing.

The three biggest expenses on the budget include personal services, valued at $8.1 million, employee benefits at $3.4 million and $2.36 million in payments towards bonds. Recreation programs, meanwhile, total $681,400 and electricity costs would be $400,500.

Jason Marra, the park district superintendent, said the Great Neck Park District recovers about 25.6 percent of its expenses through revenue. This is slightly below the national average, he said, but they provide many services and aim to recover a third of the costs.

“We offer a tremendous amount of services. We are going to try and achieve this not by raising taxes for the residents,” Marra said. “What we’re trying to do is be creative and plan well with our expenses and offer programs that the community needs that will help draw revenue.”

Some of those services include the Great Neck House, Camp Parkwood, the Steppingstone Park Marina, tennis courts, and the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink.

Expense changes across these areas – like a nearly $160,000 decrease in funding for the ice rink’s personal services – primarily come from a rearranging of staff, Marra said. He also noted that revenue for the skating rink increased from about $965,650 to over $1 million, helping further reduce its expense from $1.5 million to $1.35 million.

Marra said they intend to expand travel programs at Camp Parkwood, tennis courts and sailing programs at the marina and docks.

The Great Neck Park District will also be embarking on $625,200 worth of capital projects and repairs, according to the budget. The biggest was a portable stage trailer, worth $250,000 to be used for shows, concerts and shield performers from drizzle.

Officials said this would have a 25 year life span, allow them to haul the stage to other parks and save thousands per year in renting costs.

Some other projects include Allenwood Ballfield fixes, improving the Village Green walkways, IT hardware upgrades and Allenwood Pond renovations.

Leon Korobow, a Great Neck resident, said that he has noticed a major shift in the park district over the years for the better and that Marra’s presentation and the proposed budget showed it.

“I’ve been watching this for a long time and there’s no question that in the last couple of years, particularly since Jason [Marra] and Anthony [DiDomenico] came on, there’s been a noticeable increase in the quality of services,” Korobow said.

The budget will now go the Town of North Hempstead for review on Oct. 24.

The Great Neck Park District serves the six of Great Neck’s nine villages: Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza, Kensington, Kings Point, Russell Gardens and Thomaston.

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