CW Joint Recreation District in financial trouble

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

A shutdown earlier this year in response to COVID-19 took a toll on recreational athletics, forcing the Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District to seek outside help.

During a June 15 Canal Winchester City Council meeting, Councilman Will Bennett said the JRD cannot meet budget projections to the end of the year and is in serious trouble.

The JRD is funded solely through registrations. It lost revenue from the lack of spring teams and experienced a big reduction in the number of players signing up for softball.

“Parents are being very hesitant with registering, even at no cost,” said Bennett. “We might not be able to pull it off. Fall soccer may be the first full season we’ll get back. The positive news is in seeing the community coming together in supporting the JRD.”

Bennett said the recreational district has significant expenses and asked the city for help, such as waiving costs for port-a-johns at Hanners Park.

“The city has agreed to help out,” Bennett said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to move forward.”

Members of the JRD board, including Bennett and fellow City Councilwoman Jill Amos, met with Canal Winchester Schools representatives to explore options, including waiving facility fees or having the school district become a fiscal agent for the JRD.

While council discussed the issue, across town school district Treasurer Nick Roberts brought up the same thoughts during the June 15 Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting.

“A few months ago, the JRD asked for a meeting with school officials to bring everyone together,” said Roberts. “They were looking at support, whether it was financial, whether it was in-kind services, whether it was waiving certain fees, getting better access to fields, those types of things. Because without our assistance, the rec board is unable to go for a long term. Without our assistance or the city’s assistance, it could be abolished. No one wants to see that. We know the importance of a rec department and rec leagues.”

According to Roberts, the two entities felt the best option was for the district to become the fiscal agent for the JRD and handle all of the finances for the JRD. The district would offer $35,000 of in-kind services.

“We ran it through the legal process and are awaiting a final ruling to make sure everything is okay,” said Roberts. “We got an informal ruling from the ethics commission saying it is good to do. We wanted the board to know it’s what we’re considering. It would be a smooth process once we get it established and set up. There will be some better controls in place for them.”

One hurdle the school board needs to address is the status of the only employee on the JRD payroll, otherwise the school district would handle a few more purchase orders, receipts and deposits on behalf of the JRD.

“They’ll have their own fund and pay that employee from that fund balance as they do now,” said Roberts. “There is no obligation to the district. Hopefully, they’ll get back to normal. Currently, we are the fiscal agent for Harvest Prep, and they take on the full (fiscal) responsibility.”

Matt Krueger, school board president and a member of the JRD board, said the school district already has a partnership with the recreation district and could tighten that relationship with a fiscal partnership.

“Through COVID-19, we’ve had no sports, so there was no income for three months,” said Krueger. “We had to cancel basketball and spring athletics, so we’re trying to get back on our feet to get the kiddoes out there for football and cheerleading and some baseball. This is huge. This is truly a large step in what the CWJRD is trying to accomplish.”

Roberts said the school district needs to gather documents for the board to review before it acts on a fiscal partnership agreement with the joint recreation district.

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