The Greenfield School District’s decision to launch recreational programs, some of which mirror programs already offered by the Parks and Recreation Department, is not sitting well with the city.
On Tuesday, the district issued a news release announcing its catalog of adult fitness and team sports opportunities. According to the release, spring and summer programs will begin next month.
“It appears they are going into the recreation business,” Mayor Michael Neitzke said at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. “In times like this when there is talk about things like consolidation and cooperating and doing things as inexpensive and efficient as we can ... I’m sort of surprised they jumped into this like they have.”
Neitzke said he will attend the next Parks and Recreation Board meeting, which includes representatives from the Whitnall and Greenfield school boards, and request that a committee be formed to make sure the city and school districts are working together to offer programs to citizens as cost-effectively as possible.
“If the school district can do it cheaper and can provide the same level of service, I have no objections to letting them take them over,” Neitzke said. “But my experience is that our Parks and Recreation program does things as efficiently, perhaps more so than any program in the state.”
Neitzke said recreational programming is not a money-making proposition, but a proposal recently unveiled by Greenfield Superintendent Conrad Farner projected the district making close to $300,000. The plan, which was hotly debated at a recent school board meeting, estimated the district’s recreational programs could generate $80,000 and facility rentals another $200,000.
“I’m a little disheartened that there’s this idea that this is going to be some big revenue stream, not to mention the redundancy,” Neitzke said.
Farner said the district, especially with additional cuts in state aid around the corner, has an obligation to explore all potential revenue-generating avenues, including offering programs the city already offers, such as adult volleyball and softball.
“My focus and responsibility are to the students, families and citizens of Greenfield,” he said. “We are trying to be creative in using our limited resources to benefit students, citizens, taxpayers and the district. People who want to participate in affordable, educational and recreational activities can only benefit from having a variety of options from which to choose.”
The district’s decision to move forward with recreational programs should come as no surprise, according to Farner, who said it was presented and discussed during the high school referendum public relations campaign five years ago.
“We knew that if the new facility was built, we would have opportunities to lease/rent/sponsor activities and programs that would generate revenue for the district,” he said.
Farner added, “Every program we can offer that brings in revenue helps us address the cutbacks in state funding. It is the fiscally responsible thing to do. … We have an asset that can offer citizens educational and recreational activities at reasonable prices. That increases community involvement, helps maintain our facilities and saves taxpayers money. It is difficult to argue against any of those things."