Platte County auditor questions commission's directive to fund future parks maintenance

The Platte County Auditor found no basis for the Platte County Commission’s intent to reserve funds for future parks maintenance.

Kevin Robinson released a compliance audit of the Platte County Parks Master Plan last week, an audit he decided to undertake based on comments commissioners made at a budget hearing in January. The three-member commission, which includes two newly elected officials, indicated that a review of the Platte County Parks and Recreation master plan documents called for a 10 percent reserve fund.

Kevin Robinson

Kevin Robinson

The half-cent sales tax voters first approved in 2000 and renewed for 10 more years in 2009 provides the funding for parks projects, parks maintenance and a stormwater grant program.

“Neither the original or updated master plan indicates a requirement for funding a maintenance endowment account or reserve fund,” Robinson said in a press release his office issued Wednesday, March 15.

Platte County presiding commissioner Ron Schieber said at the Monday, March 20 administrative session that he had not yet reviewed the audit report.

“We are still very committed to maintenance,” Schieber said. “I talked for two years about the need for a maintenance plan. Maintenance doesn’t look as pretty on a white board but when you have the great facilities that we do you need to be able to maintain them.”

Schieber said Platte County first district commissioner Dagmar Wood was working with interim Platte County parks and recreation director Noel Challis to create a maintenance plan. The decision to seek out the plan came after the commission proposed moving $2.75 million from the parks capital improvements fund to the future reserve fund in January. 

The move would have left insufficient funds to cover planned park projects for the year, Challis said at the meeting. While the transfer plan was postponed before the end of the meeting, the commissioners tasked Challis with coming up with a maintenance plan by April. 

Robinson’s audit report states that during the Monday, Jan. 30 public budget hearing, “statements were made indicating previous commissions failed to establish and fund a 10 percent future maintenance reserve fund as specified in the parks master plan.”

A reserve fund was established during the 2013 budget process, and has a balance of about $4.2 million as of the end of 2016. At that meeting, commissioners said they wanted to have $16 million in the fund by the end of 2020, when the tax is set to expire.

Robinson acknowledged the commission has the authority to realign funds from the capital projects to the reserve fund, so long as public notices of such changes are properly made and a hearing held. However, he found no documentation to support the 10 percent reserve fund threshold proposed at the Jan. 30 hearing. 

“Existing commitments should be considered when realigning funds to prevent breach of contract for construction in process or default of the county’s community center debt service,” the report states. “Commitments not under contract are subject to change at the discretion of the commission.”

At the March 20 commission session, Platte County resident Janet Stark asked if there was an estimated cost of maintenance for all county projects for the next 10 years.

“Everyone likes new shiny buildings but no one likes to figure out what it will cost to maintain them,” Stark said.

Wood thanked Stark and fellow audience member Barb Carney, who voiced concerns about maintenance at the Platte County Community Center South, for their comments. Wood said with the appointment of former assistant parks director Jim Kunce to the Platte County Park Board she hoped maintenance concerns would soon be addressed.

The full audit report is available on the auditor’s page on the county website at co.platte.mo.us.