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Response to Commissioner Sullivan

Dear Commissioner Sullivan,

Regarding your email below…

My comments indeed take a critical view of the lack of thought and judgment supporting your December 9th vote to spend $1,600,000 for artificial turf fields, among other projects totaling $2,800,000, all of which has not been responsibly planned, is outside the budget process, and is paid for by accounting gimmicks.

We can and should improve the condition and drainage of our multi-user playing fields for the benefit of Winter Park children. I fully support that objective and there are many ways to accomplish this for a small percentage of $2,800,000. Your spending approval, however, only serves to expand the amount by which Winter Park taxpayers subsidize the regional demand for playing fields to the detriment of all Winter Park residents and for the benefit of for-profit sports leagues and non-residents.

According to data from staff analysis:

  • We are subsidizing playing field capacity to the benefit of other municipalities. Winter Park has one playing field for every 3000 residents while the average of all other municipalities in the staff analysis is one playing field for every 15000 residents.
  • We are subsiding playing field usage for non-residents. Staff estimates of resident versus non-resident field use show that resident usage per hour of field use available is less than 40% for youth sports and less than 25% for adult sports. Overall, staff analysis indicates that non-resident usage is about 65% of total capacity.
  • We are subsidizing playing fields for the benefit of “for profit” teams/leagues. In addition, staff analysis shows that over 60% of available playing fields hours are taken up by “for profit” teams and leagues.

Your comments in the broadly distributed email below are very concerning as they contain false statements while not addressing the real issues we face in providing quality playing fields for Winter Park children.

RE: “By email count, respondents were hugely in favor of renovating our athletic fields and facilities now.”

Please consider that the number of emails you receive on any given issue is not a measure of justification for either a positive or negative vote. The people of Winter Park do not need your opinion of who or what is most popular. They need sound policy and prudent judgment.

RE: “Our Commission decided to accelerate the parks improvement plan with $2.8 million in 2021.”

This statement is false. There is no approved “parks improvement plan.” A five year budget does not exist. Nothing has been “accelerated” because no approved spending exists beyond the current year budget.

There are also no capital spending projections in the approved 2021 budget that include or mention, artificial turf fields or $1,600,000 for any related project. In other words, your $2,800,000 spending increase has not been responsibly vetted and you now mislead our residents in an effort to rationalize your vote.

RE: “The Water and Sewer fund reserves are intended to cover a minimum of 45 days of operating expenses. However, after borrowing funds for these Parks improvements, the Water and Sewer fund will still have in excess of 150 days of reserves.”

At least you acknowledge that the funding mechanism you approved is an accounting gimmick to hide the negative impact on our emergency General Fund Reserves. Please consider that your statement about Water and Sewer fund reserves would be seen by someone assuming fiduciary responsibility for city funds as reason for an investigation. Why are Water and Sewer fund reserves at 4 times the policy objective? Is it because the policy objective is too low or because water rates are too high? Perhaps you can look into that?

I am blunt because I take the quality of judgment guiding Winter Park policy seriously and believe you can help us all by upping your game.

Please reconsider your December 9th vote and more carefully consider all issues on behalf of all Winter Park residents.

Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Policy.

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