The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 5, 2012

LARA works to maintain financial surplus

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — A year after its financial crisis, the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority will save $30,000 in its $600,000 budget for fiscal 2012, and will model its 2013 spending plan similarly to create another surplus.

Several factors allowed the 2012 surplus, said Jim Mathias, LARA’s board chairman, among them, the Lewisburg Community Pool, with expenses down 20 percent from 2011, and 2012 revenue exceeding expectations at $140,000.

Mathias credited Executive Director Katie Davis and staff for managing LARA and keeping it within its budget.

“They managed the business very well despite staff changes, an office move, a challenging economic environment, the bridge fire and the Rail Trail, which required a lot of startup time,” he said.

This weekend marks one year of operation for the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail, which has injected funds into area businesses and has given LARA a platform for other fundraising events, such as the Buffalo Valley Flat ’n Fast Four-Miler and 5K run/walk with dogs.

Surpluses for 2012 and 2013 will be put into a capital reserve fund that LARA wants for facilities maintenance and equipment upgrades the group expects, Mathias said.

“Our biggest challenge going forward will be developing the resources to maintain our assets,” Mathias said.

LARA developed a capital reserve plan, surveying its properties to determine when and what will need to be repaired or replaced.

“It includes everything we own, plotted out over the next 20 years,” and it totals $2.6 million, he said. “In addition to our internal contributions to that plan, we need to identify other funding sources” to make this, he said.

This will include seeking private donations and additional grants and public funding, Mathias said, as well as fundraisers.

“We hope that everyone who uses our programs and facilities and believes in our mission will support us as we move to meet this challenge,” he said.

LARA also combed through its expenses in creating its 2013 draft budget, and eliminated what line items it could to cut costs.

The group relies on fee-based programs to support parks and community programs that generate little or no income.

The news comes at a good time for LARA. A newly formed committee is looking to rewrite the intergovernmental agreement that governs the recreation group and that potentially could change its funding structure. East Buffalo Township and Lewisburg borough, the municipalities with a stake in LARA, are studying the agreement, which expires in 2013.

The news also indicates LARA is on stronger footing following its financial dilemma in 2011, which saw a $400,000 line of credit called in and its money dealings scrutinized by both municipalities.

Mathias said it will not seek any change in operational support funding for 2013. LARA officially will adopt next year’s budget at its meeting Nov. 14.

Between 70 percent and 80 percent of LARA’s $600,000 budget is funded by fees charged for programs and services. East Buffalo and Lewisburg make up the rest through quarterly payments based on a millage rate. The intergovernmental agreement states the township pays a larger portion because it has greater property values.

LARA has three full-time employees and a part-time program director. It uses both AmeriCorps personnel and community volunteers to support its operations.