Rochester Hills CFO to Monitor RARA Budget

The Rochester Hills City Council met for its final meeting of the year on Monday, December 11, and focused heavily on budget amendments regarding the city and the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority (RARA).

Ron Jewell, executive director of RARA, found himself in hot water with the city council following a less-than-spectacular fiscal year. The recreation facility failed to capture the revenues it expected to accrue from new programming offered at the second facility, resulting in a dramatic decrease in its fund balance.

Jewell explained a late start date and lack of foresight in the RARA budget were partially to blame.

“The fiscal year 2017 budget was submitted as if the building was fully operational and running for the projected programming for an entire fiscal year,” Jewell told the council. “RARA was unsure when the building would be fully operational and open for business.”

RARA’s second facility opened in April, 2017, and offers 22,000 square feet of space that fits two multi-use gymnasiums, a group fitness studio and a fitness center. The facility was originally intended to open at the beginning of the year, resulting in three months of lost profit and then some.

“January through March, RARA accrued all building expenditures, but did not capture any revenue until the certificate of occupancy was granted,” Jewell added. “The bulk of fitness memberships of are captured typically from November through March.”

Joe Snyder, CFO of Rochester Hills, expressed frustration with RARA’s budget misstep.

“To say that I was not particularly pleased with the reduction of RARA’s fund balance is really an understatement,” he told council.

Snyder explained that the City of Rochester Hills will now step in to closely monitor RARA’s budget and provide regular reports to the city council. The city plans to work with RARA to develop a three-year budget plan, which goes against the facility’s tradition of only budgeting one year ahead.

Additionally, the City of Rochester Hills will require RARA to present quarterly amendments rather than fourth quarter amendments.

While city council members were pleased to see Snyder and the city take control of RARA’s finances, not all were convinced that RARA could be saved.

“I would hate to see RARA go away,” Council Member Bowyer said. “But it wouldn’t be beyond me to say I’d be all for dissolving it if it comes to the point where we’re spending too much money on RARA.”

Moving onto other matters, the city council also approved the addition of two Oakland County Sheriff’s office deputies as part of its 2018 budget.

Council members were especially pleased with this news as the new officers would be hired without additional costs.

“It’s been said several times we’ve been the safest city in Michigan, but it isn’t often said that on a per capita basis, we’re among the lowest expenses in the state for law enforcement,” Mayor Barnett said. “So I would say we’re definitely getting our money’s worth.”

The Rochester Hills City Council will hold its next meeting on Monday, January 8. To watch this meeting in full, please visit the council’s YouTube channel titled “Council Meetings – City of Rochester Hills.”