RARA Budget Back on Track After Latest Council Meeting

By DREW HOWARD

The Rochester Hills City Council approved first-quarter budget amendments for the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority (RARA) that will set the organization “back on track” financially.

RARA’s fund balance saw a significant decrease in 2017 after failing to capture anticipated revenues from its second facility, which opened in April 2017. At a previous council meeting on December 11, Executive Director Ron Jewell explained the late start date of the second facility and lack of foresight in the RARA budget were partially to blame.

Since that meeting, Rochester Hills CFO Joe Snyder has been working with RARA board members to create a budget aimed at reclaiming losses. In RARA’s first quarter budget amendment, Jewell told council he’s expecting a positive fund balance impact of $65,000. Amendments are expected to bring RARA’s total year-end fund balance close to $150,000, the result of $2.6 million in revenues and $2.4 million in expenses.

Several council members praised both Jewell and Snyder for their work on the budget. “I commend you for this budget amendment and what was presented to us today,” council member Dale Hetrick said. “This is clearly a turnaround from what we saw a bit ago, and a very very good first step in creating sustainability financially for RARA.”

Later in the meeting, the council unanimously voted to put Rochester Hills into a certification program that would make it a Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC). Organized by Michigan Economic Development Program (MEDC), the programs opens up grant opportunities for communities that work achieve certification by meeting specific criteria.

Council President Mark Tisdel reiterated that the certification is worth pursuing considering Rochester Hills already meets many of the criteria, which would cut down on future costs.

Mayor Barnett also threw his support behind the certification. He was especially excited about “Patronicity,” a program available only to certified communities in which the MEDC matches up to $50,000 in patron contributions to a specific project.

He noted this program would be very beneficial to the development of Innovation Hills. “Once we get through this process we could actually encourage $25, $50, $75 gifts from our residents matched by the MEDC,” Barnett said. “We could multiply and leverage those dollars, and that’s really exciting to me.”

Barnett spoke on Innovation Hills again later in the meeting, announcing that the project has officially eclipsed $1 million in grants. The park is being touted as the region’s “largest universally accessible play area,” and will be located at 2800 W. Hamlin Road.

The council also took a moment of silence to honor the lives of Dominic Moceri and Steve Stolaruk, two Rochester and Rochester Hills residents who made significant contributions to Innovation Hills. Both passed away earlier this month. Barnett said Stolaruk contributed to the project in helping develop the park’s parking lot and initial trail. Dominic and the Moceri family previously donated $200,000 to Innovation Hills, the single largest monetary donation the city has received thus far.

“We celebrate crossing the $1 million threshold for Innovation Hills, and it wouldn’t have been possible without either of them,” Barnett said.

The Rochester Hills City Council will hold its next meeting on Monday, March 12. You can watch all of the Rochester Hills City Council meetings in full on the YouTube Channel “Council Meetings – City of Rochester Hills.”