Ontario pledges funds to get recreation district started

ONTARIO – The Ontario City Council has agreed to fund the newly-created recreation district for the first six months of 2019.

That will cost Ontario between $15,000 and $20,000, said City Manager Adam Brown. 

Brown said the money will come from the city recreation department’s budget approved last spring.

 “I think it is exciting for the community. We definitely can’t afford to lose the recreational activities for the kids,” said Brown.

Once the new recreation board is sworn in, they will ink a short-term agreement to finalize the city’s funding role. As part of that pact, the new recreation district will agree to cover any excess costs for the first six months of the year.

Debbie Jefferies, the Ontario recreation manager, will report to the city and to the district board until June 30. 

Ontario resident Mary Jo Evers, who led the effort to win voter approval of the new district, said she doesn’t believe it will cost the city $10,000 to support the district.

“It is hard because these are projections but I think we can all work together. We all have the same goal,” said Evers.

While voter approval meant the district and a board was to be formed, the new government entity still faced a funding gap for the first six months of the year.

Evers said she and city officials looked at several options to fund the district, including loans, getting grants or using volunteers. The district recently received a $30,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. 

Because the city still expects to have money in its recreation department budget after Dec. 31, Evers said it seemed logical to use that.

“If expenditures go beyond what is available, the district will pay for it out of the grant,” said Evers.

Evers said the district still must fund itself after June 30 and before tax revenues begin to roll in next October.

Evers said the district would probably use money from the grant and a credit line in the meantime.

Ron Verini, Ontario mayor, said the new deal is a good one. 

“The amount of money the rec district will bring in for their communities far exceeds anything we’ve had in the past and, obviously, it will be for the betterment of the community,” said Verini.

The tax rate for the district will be 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value beginning next year. The boundaries of the district are the same as the Ontario School District. 

In November voters also picked the five members of the district’s board: Evers, Megan Cook, Robert J. Boyd, Matt Mejia and Toni Davila will sit on the new governing board. 

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.